“This peach is so perfect it’s insane!” said my niece, Jane.

She was describing her first experience of a Goldbud peach at the North Tisbury Market, where she worked for two months this summer. She’d never tasted one before or for that matter, even heard of one. But customers went crazy for them.

People phoned the store repeatedly — urgently — to ask if Goldbuds were in stock. When the market had a supply of Goldbuds, they put a sign out on State Road (Jane designed the colorful chalkboard). With her own eyes, she saw customers slam on their brakes and make hairy turns into the tiny gravel parking lot.

“What is it about Goldbuds?” Jane asked her wise old uncle (me). “I mean, they’re literally amazing, but are they that much better than a regular peach? And they cost so much!”

“Ah, grasshopper,” said I. “When you understand why people must have their Goldbuds, you will understand the mystique of the Island.”

This was Jane’s first visit the Vineyard and she was glad to be worlds away from Nashville, where she grew up, and from Pensacola, which has long been our family beach. For her, the Island was brand-new and strange, rich with secret ways and local customs she was eager to explore.

A soon-to-be senior in college, Jane is tall, stylish, brown-eyed, fast talking and immediately engaging. We have some history together — we once performed “Money,” the deliciously wicked song from Cabaret, at a family Thanksgiving. When I heard that she was at loose ends for most of the summer, I invited her to come up and stay with me and her Aunt Robyn and find work on the Island.

On her second day here, Jane and I went into the North Tisbury Market to buy yams. From the road, the store looks a little dusty and tatterdamelion — weathered siding, sloping porch, potted greenery on racks. Inside, however, in addition to museum quality veggies, the place is chockablock with cheeses, charcuterie, jams, pastries and all manner of delicious treats.

Our arms were full of goodies when we went to pay. The woman at the counter happened to be the owner of the market, though we didn’t know that. Jane asked, “Are you still hiring for the summer?”

“Can you start tomorrow?” said the owner.

That was it, the entire job interview. Jane was hired and the door to a golden summer swung wide open. As one of a market staff of bright, cheerful, young people, Jane fit right in. Within days she had a bestie and a growing circle of friends.

Soon she was going out regularly to parties and . . . well, going out. To movies and music, to places like Ice House pond for night swimming and Flamingo Cottage, wherever that is, for star gazing.

Admittedly, her aunt and uncle took vicarious delight in her adventures and watching her tackle Vineyard 101, learning about the following subjects:


On her first day here, at the urging of her uncle and after making all kinds of excuses, after sloooooowly walking out into the water, Jane took a deep breath, yelped, and immersed herself in the 60-degree water of the Sound. She came up screaming with triumph. “That was a full body reset,” she declared when she got out.

After that, she was ready to try the water anywhere: Quansoo, State Beach, Lucy Vincent, Lambert’s Cove, and a few whose names she didn’t know.


She didn’t have to look for them — they came to the market. The third time she saw the TV star we’ll call Ed Handsome, she didn’t even notice what he bought. Celebrities? They were cool but just a part of the Island furniture.

Sticker shock.

Even though she was living rent free, Jane felt the jolt of Island prices. She was trying to put aside money, and she watched it when her gang went out on the town. She quickly learned which restaurants were affordable and served meals large enough to send her home with a box full of leftovers. The only new shoes she bought were lime-green slip-ons that cost $3 at a thrift store.

Real estate snobbery.

“It’s so crazy,” she said, “the way up-Island people talk about down-Island. Like it’s literally a slum.”

We lived in Vineyard Haven and she wouldn’t let anyone trash it.

Everything seemed to peak the night Jane went out in her red boots (she brought them with her) with a group of young men who turned out to be a capella singers from the same college. She might have been the only woman in the group. Details of the night were murky, but she did get serenaded and the serenade lasted well into the wee hours.

Back to the Goldbud Peach. After her first bite of the fruit, she went through a period of slight aversion. Though some customers thought nothing of buying a big bag of Goldbuds at $15.99 a pound, they seemed to be out of reach for people like her. Too precious, too pricey.

Nevertheless, she sometimes brought a Goldbud home with her, purchased with her employee discount, and she and her uncle would sit in the kitchen and admire the peach before carefully slicing it into delectable morsels. The fuzzy texture of the skin, the juiciness, the fragrance, the voluptuousness! The Goldbud was like a tiny, glorious, edible sunset with its celestial hues of orange, red and gold.

Jane took a bite of a Goldbud, closed her eyes, savored every droplet of the goodness.

“So it’s crazy expensive,” she said, in the thoughtful manner of one arriving at her final opinion. “So what? It’s not the peach’s fault that rich people covet it. I mean, you can’t hold it against the peach that it costs so much. Sometimes you just have to have what you can’t really afford.”

Her uncle thought of expounding on that remark but knew he didn’t have to. Jane had learned what she needed to know about the mystique of the Island.

In truth, she’d taught him something important — namely, that no matter how crowded, expensive, fetishized and cliched the Island had become, it hadn’t lost its magic. It still had the power to win a young person’s heart. And an old person’s, too.


Stephen Goodwin lives in Vineyard Haven.