Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Different Kind of Fireworks


No, this photo was taken from the window of our apartment in New York on June 24 as we were packing to leave for the Vineyard. Talk about surprises! I heard the booms, ran to the window to see what was going on, and for the next half hour stood mesmerized by this incredible display. Have no idea what was being celebrated in Central Park. I just hope whoever/whatever it was enjoyed it as much as we did. The next morning we flew to the Vineyard. What a send-off!

But on the real July 4th, as family and friends were gathering all over the island for the holiday weekend, word spread that a morning fire, originating in the basement of our favorite Vineyard Haven restaurant, Cafe Moxie, burned it to the ground -- and seriously damaged it's neighbor Bunch of Grapes, one of the best indie bookstores in the country. The restaurant and the bookstore shared a common wall. Bunch of Grapes is still standing but suffered such smoke and water damage that it will remain closed for the season. The business district of Vineyard Haven is very small and Bunch of Grapes - a large, welcoming, and well stocked bookstore - was the linchpin of Main Street. People came from all over the island to browse, to buy books, to attend special events, to see and be seen.

Our first summer on the island, 1983, Randy (she'd just graduated from college) got a job at Bunch of Grapes. Every afternoon she'd ride her bike into town and when the store closed at 9pm, she'd ride home again. I worried at first about her riding home in the dark, then through a path in the woods, but eventually I got used to it, and Randy loved working at the bookstore. She introduced us to the store and to its dynamic owner, Ann Nelson. George and I spent hours in the store that summer and every summer since. Can't remember how many book signings I've had there. Many. I remember one where Ann's mother served lemonade and cookies to the kids waiting in line. I always tell booksellers this story but it seems nobody wants to encourage sticky hands at a bookstore these days.

This summer I was slated to sign Going, Going, Gone! when it comes out in late August. But as of Monday, all events at Bunch of Grapes have been cancelled for the season. What a loss this year round bookstore for readers of all ages and all interests is to the island community! Ann's son (she recently turned the store over to him) is promising to rebuild. I called Ann to say our family is ready and willing to volunteer, and I know many other island residents have done the same. I think I'll call again today. You can read more about the fire; Cafe Moxie and the young couple who recently bought the restaurant; Bunch of Grapes and Ann Nelson - all with photos - at the Vineyard Gazette.
A sad start to a summer season though we're grateful no one was hurt.

On July 5th we celebrated Larry's birthday with a small family dinner. Randy cooked (risotto with fresh island peas -- heavenly) and baked (Aunt Frances's chocolate cake with mocha whipped cream frosting -- yummm). I was her sous chef. Larry prepared shrimp (I'm allergic to shellfish so stay out of the kitchen when it's around). Larry's birthdays usually bring many island friends to our table, and the atmosphere is more raucous than reflective. This year was different but no less enjoyable.

Larry, with his friend Kathryn - behind them is Randy with her cat, Keith (who inspired Fluzzy in the Pain & the Great One series.) Missing -- Elliot, who's in Spain, Amanda and Jim, who are in New Mexico, and George, who's taking the picture.

Moms get to go sentimental on the occasion of their children's birthdays (even when those children are in their 40's). I remember waiting and waiting through an early summer heat wave for him to be born. Of course, in those days, we didn't know the sex of our babies. We didn't know much of anything. My due date was Memorial Day. And Larry wasn't born until the 5th of July! I was 25. I'd gained 45 pounds. Had just two "mumu s" that fit by then. One was an orange and blue plaid, the other a white and turquoise print. I wore them everywhere. Washed them at night. It was the summer we got a color TV. The summer I fell in love with the Mets. Randy was just over two years old. I could hardly carry her. My mother came for the weekend to help. When I went into labor after dinner my mother got so worked up she had a spontaneous nosebleed. I was more worried about her than having the baby. Still, I bathed Randy and put her to sleep, then took a shower, and by the time we got to the hospital there was no time to spare. Larry was born just before midnight. I was out of it for the rest of that night. It wasn't until the next morning that I got to hold and bond with my baby boy. Back then they kept you in the hospital for a week. (I think I was looking forward to having a week off.) My mother phoned to say Randy would eat only applesauce and oreos. She was concerned. What should she do? The pediatrician assured me this was okay. And it was.

Happy Birthday, Larry!

xx Judy