West Tisbury: Shirley Mayhew, mother figures, Heather Cox Richardson, and Merry Farm Pottery

—MV Times

I am writing this column for Mother’s Day, having attended the Mayhew family’s memorial celebration for their matriarch, Shirley. It was fun to see the photographs of her life with John, to hear the music she loved, and tributes from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; Luna, Wren, and Isla spoke of their love for “Nana.” I remember when Isla was born, Shirley’s pride in having “four generations of Mayhew women under one roof.” Shirley was living at Deborah’s by then, as were Katie and Seán, and then Isla.

Shirley made everyone welcome in her heart and in her home, even strays like me, who arrived here knowing no one. Everything and everyone interested her, so there was always lots to talk about. What a wonderful mother and friend she was.

The Ag Hall was decorated with purple and red bouquets of clematis, hyacinths, and tulips, a palette referring to the Red Hat Society, ladies over 50 who wore purple and red outfits to their meetings. The potluck was, as always at West Tisbury gatherings, one platter after another with the most delicious food, artfully arranged. She would have loved it.

Then I read Heather Cox Richardson’s Mother’s Day tribute to a special woman in her life. She wrote of all the women who contribute to the making of us, that we all need women besides our mothers, who engage and encourage us throughout our lives. If you don’t know about or read Heather Cox Richardson’s daily “Letters from an American,” take a look at it. She is a historian, and her newsletters put current events into a historical perspective that I find helpful.

I had been thinking about my mother a lot this Mother’s Day. She was a difficult person, and we had a difficult relationship. I believe she showed me what depression looked like, although I had no words for it at the time. She was critical and sharp with me, the only girl, but she must have done a good enough job; I think I turned out pretty well. She also introduced me to her friends, Mitzi Barach and Elizabeth Graham, who were so supportive and dear to me, who were accepting of me in ways my mother was not.

When I arrived on the Vineyard, the women who took me to hand were Norma Salop and Janice Hull. They were “my other mothers,” as Norma used to call herself. Shirley Mayhew and Ella Cullen were both special and lovely to me, too, just that I didn’t see them almost every day the way I did Norma, who had Cove Hollow Antiques right next door to my original gallery in Edgartown, and Janice, my husband’s aunt, who lived up a path through the woods between our two houses here in West Tisbury. All this is mostly to concur with Heather Cox Richardson’s opinion on the importance and influence of women other than our birth mothers.

So, what was my Mother’s Day like this year? Abby woke me up, as she does, somewhere around 5 o’clock. I went downstairs to let her out, and discovered that Mona had peed all over herself and the floor. I cleaned that up. I made breakfast for the animals. Abby threw up. I cleaned that up. Then I went into the bathroom and noticed blood all over the floor. Where had that come from? Behind the toilet was a baby rabbit, barely alive, obviously brought in by Nelson, who was peacefully sleeping on our bed upstairs. I wrapped the bunny up to carry him outside, where he jumped out of my arms and ran off. I went back inside to clean up the bathroom. I have a sparkling clean bathroom, and have had enough adventure to last me a lifetime, all before 6 am.

After all of this, Mike could hardly begrudge me the two fabulous pottery vases I bought on Saturday when I went to Merry Farm Pottery’s open house. I have loved Micah Thanhauser’s pottery for some while. When I walk past one of the vases, now on a table in our front hall filled with tulips, I feel thankful for its beauty.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.