I loved turning 90 a year and a half ago. Friend Mary Jane Pease gave me a party overlooking Chilmak Pond. I was presented with a crown with the number 90 on it, and we all enjoyed a Black Dog birthday cake decorated with the Vineyard Gazette masthead written in frosting. I always have the frosting kept in my freezer in case I forget I’m the oldest staff member at the Gazette – I was one on and off for 70 years.
In 1952 I was rescued from a series of less exciting summer jobs by then Gazette editors and publishers Henry Beetle Hough and Elizabeth Bowie Hough. They hired me as a summer reporter. Before that, I had been a maid one summer, making beds and cleaning the toilets at the Ahoma Inn in East Chop.
Another summer I had served ice cream and candies and day cakes that had the aging frosting replaced with fresh frosting. It was at Luce’s Ice Cream and Candy Parlor on the Vineyard Haven waterfront.
I had also been a short-term cook at the cafe at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven. There, a wise waitress told me her secret to getting tips. She said I need to learn to tell if the coffee drinkers who walked in were cup men or cup men. Mug men wanted a he-man mug that highlighted their manhood. Mug men wanted a mug, suggesting they were gentlemen.
Now that autumn is almost gone, “like the leaves that flew before the wild hurricane”, I seem to be wavering. Nevertheless, last Sunday, I left, as usual, to walk the Middle Road from Music street.
On Sunday there are fewer speeders than on weekdays. In the spring, there are lilies to admire at the first house I pass. In the summer there are daisies and later goldenrod to pick for bouquets. My destination is always Mermaid Farm, and a chance to greet chickens and sheep. Then I nod to the oxen on the other side of the road.
At the Dripps at the start of my walk, the rhododendrons are in bloom in June. It was time, when my favorite summer blueberry was also nearby. There were both low and highbush blueberries. The bushes still grow, but no longer bear fruit.
Just at the Chilmark line, a tall holly tree rises. It still thrills me because although a highway crew shot it down long ago, saying it was too close to the road, it bravely pushed back and thrived.
But last Sunday, I stopped before arriving in Chilmark. Even with a cane, I was taking too long (and luckily there was little litter to pick up, as I usually do).
I will try again this Sunday to cover my complete route. Now that I’ve adapted to summer time, maybe it’s easier, I tell myself.
But it was easier at 90 than at 91, and thanks to the Black Dog icing, I like to reminisce about my Gazette rescue decades ago.