When I was a little kid, on May Day my mother would send me out with little baskets of flowers for each of the neighbor ladies. We made the baskets out of purple construction paper and filled them with pansies and johnny-jump-ups. The ladies were so delighted that I was convinced at a very early age that you really can’t go wrong with flowers. I still enjoy bringing home a big bouquet of roses.
Don’t be confused by the interrupted Chappy potluck dinner cycle. We usually don’t have them two weeks in a row, but with the one-week postponement of the previous one because of fumes from the floor refinishing, that’s the way it is. Dorothy and John Dropick will be the hosts this Wednesday, May 1. This will be a very pleasant way to spend May Day evening.
Sally and I are deeply saddened by the passing of her college roommate Grace Mahaffey Rouse. Grace is the reason that Sally came to the Island. They were both attending Wheelock College in the early 1970s and Grace had signed up for Helen Maley’s student teacher program here on the Vineyard. She encouraged Sally to join as well. They lived in the so-called “Wheelock House” at the corner of Edgartown Road and State Road in Vineyard Haven.
Through Helen’s program, the Island benefited from an annual infusion of a half-dozen enthusiastic and idealistic 22-year-old female teaching students. Over a hundred came to the Island, including men when Wheelock went co-ed in the mid 70s. Many returned after graduation to teach in our schools and start families here on the Vineyard.
Grace wanted to student teach on the Island because she was in love with Michael Rouse. He was driving moving vans and tractor trailers for Trip Barnes. He delivered the lumber for quite a few houses here on Chappy. Michael had a full beard and long hair at the time and Trip called him “Critter.” Grace married Michael at the end of the term in December. When he got a haircut and shaved off his beard, apparently his appearance was quite altered. Grace told Sally that she thought that she had married a “man” but upon seeing Michael shorn and shaved, said that he was really just a “college boy”.
They were married in Gay Head followed by a reception at the Wheelock House. The wedding closely coincided with the student teachers finishing their term here and returning to Boston. It was a very hectic weekend of festivities, including packing up a winter’s worth of belongings and then tidying up the Wheelock House. Sally recalls being among the last to depart, working frantically to get the place cleaned up before catching the 7:30 a.m. ferry. She tried to vacuum the debris off of a soaking wet rug and discovered that there is a limit to how much liquid a regular Electrolux can suck up before shorting out.
Sally headed back to Wheelock and Grace stayed here to live with Michael and the goats on Red Hill Farm Road. Jackson was born that summer and three years later, Louisa.
Michael had a sideline of repairing Volkswagens, and Trip referred me to him when I was looking for a hard-to-find part for my VW bus. He gave me the phone number and told me to ask for Critter. Grace answered and patiently explained where to find him. She ended our conversation by telling me very firmly as only a schoolteacher can, “His name isn’t Critter, it’s Michael.”
Sally returned to the Vineyard after graduation to start a family day care in Helen Maley’s program at a rented house on Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs. I was recently separated and I needed child care for my daughter Nearess while I was at work. My ex-wife had been researching preschools and had written Sally’s phone number in the back of the phone book. I called her up and Nearess began attending Sally’s day care.
That was 36 years ago. We have two daughters, two grandsons, three granddaughters and a lifetime together, thanks to Grace.