Call me Becca! That’s what everyone still calls me, back here on the rock. I love it; makes me feel like a kid again.
Getting here was a pain in the butt. There are now several ways of schlepping to the Vineyard from NYC without a car (or a private jet), but I don’t know that any of them are an improvement over the old standby: bus from Port Authority to Woods Hole, and then the ferry.
Always up for adventure, I decided to try the train–shuttle–Fast Ferry option. Alas, the Fast Ferry was sold out for the day. I’ll spare you the details, but there is nothing quite so hellish as being stuck in New Bedford approaching Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, among my plethora of extended family is my New-Bedfordian cousin Pete Coffin. He let me crash at his place last night, and I was able to get the Fast Ferry this morning.
It’s surprisingly great to be home — although so much has changed since I fled for college too many years ago. The Islander is gone, the Hot Tin Roof is no longer the Hot Tin Roof, Gay Head is now Aquinnah, the Fair — the whole thing — moved, you can buy sushi at a place called The Net Result, and wildest of all, Vineyard Haven almost voted to sell booze in restaurants!
I always loved this place growing up, and of course the summer visits have been wonderful, but I never thought I’d come back to live here. Mostly because of my crazy family. So how’s that for irony: said family, and its craziness, are the very reason I’ve been coaxed home. I don’t remember how much I told you about why I’ve come back, while you were helping me to pack up my little studio on West 76th (I still owe you lunch, by the way) so here’s the low-down.
Gwen and Abe — my aunt and uncle with the nursery business, Pequot — are divorcing after 40 stormy years of marriage. She left him and, boy, he’s not taking it well. She’s a wash-ashore; he’s the one I’m actually related to, so I’m expected to rally to his side although I always liked her just as much (plus Abe’s a little eccentric, frankly). In the settlement, he keeps the business. She was the heart of Pequot, but it would be toxic for her to continue working there. Without her, he’ll have to scramble to keep it viable. There will be growing pains (excuse the pun) over the next season, especially for the staff.
So. The family had an emergency pow-wow and decided that I (who was not present for said powwow) should come home to “ease the transition to a post-Gwen era.” I was always the best at dealing with Abe and Gwen’s dynamics — meaning, when they’d get into a fight, I could talk them down before it became physically violent. But I don’t mean to sound like I was coerced. As you surely saw, I was burning out in Manhattan, felt wretched and semi-suicidal working in an office all day, and long experience has taught me that nothing gets the grimness off better than a return to the Vineyard. It seemed high time to get home for a while, and now I have an excuse — and a job!
The family, and some of the nursery staff, was briefly under the delusion that I remember all the stuff I learned as a kid from Gwen. So they were hoping I could step in and become Gwen: The Next Generation. I’ve disabused them of that notion, but they do want me to continue Gwen’s pet project of chronicling the edible plants growing wild on the island (f’r’instance right now, in this clear spring air that is always a few weeks tardy of the city, watercress is abundant.)
Pequot is a pretty cool company. They encourage people to have yards, gardens and landscaping that resemble what it might have been like here back when more people grew their own food, everyone had kitchen gardens, nobody watered their lawns and (almost) nobody had caretakers to groom their property for them. I’m actually proud to be a part of it, but I feel like a fake, since I’ve spent the last ten years as a magazine editor. I’m low man on the totem pole, and I’ve got a lot to learn — fast.
That will start after Memorial Day, since they’re all wrapping up their hyper-busy season, and should have time to educate me as of next week. Right now, I’m going to settle in (I’m staying in a guestroom of a cousin on the Pease side of the family) and get my ‘sea legs,’ so to speak. I report for work next week. Wish me luck — and in particular, wish for me that Abe is over his anguish. Even though he got Pequot (and the house) free and clear, he’s been roaring to his staff about the divorce costing him an arm and a leg. When the nursery manager pointed out that he didn’t suffer any material loss, Uncle Abe is reported to have countered, “Well, maybe just an arm, then. No, it was at least a leg.” So you see what I’ve signed on for.
Becca (Rebecca no longer!)
Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s latest novel is CROSSED: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Look for Moby Rich related photos and other goodies on her Web site, nicolegalland.com.