Hand-in-hand and dressed in thick sweaters, we took our first stroll down Main Street in Vineyard Haven. Shops, untouched by time, lined both sides of the narrow street; art galleries, sellers of home accents and furniture, antiques and collectibles. We walked by a French restaurant. I looked at Bella. “Maybe tonight?”
She shook her head. “I was hoping for something a little more casual.”
“And healthy?” I teased.
There was another B&B beside a gourmet shop that Bella stepped into. They had all the ingredients she needed to make bruschetta. “Now we’re talking,” she said, “We’ll be back for some things tomorrow.”
We took our time and looked at everything. There were nostalgic candy stores that still twisted saltwater taffy – in every pastel color imaginable – right in the front window for everyone to see. Fudge was also made by hand; most things done like days of old. We bought a half-pound of chocolate walnut fudge and took turns with the small white bag as we went along. There were jewelers, gift shops and clothiers. Led by my curious wife, I poked my head into each and wasted the afternoon away. Past the goldsmith, photographer and realtor’s office, we made it to the Mansion House Inn on the corner. And then it was time to make our way back up the other side of the street.
The Island Theater, closed for renovations, was a definite glimpse of yesterday. I dragged Bella back across the street to check out Bunch of Grapes Bookstore.
It was a busy, independent shop that seemed to capture the spirit of the island. We browsed for a while. They had a wide range of island books, from local hiking-trail guides to cookbooks and collections of poetry by local artists. The atmosphere was personal and made book shopping a pleasure, something the major franchises had long abandoned. I walked upstairs to find a small parlor where they hosted local authors and poets. Unfortunately, there were none scheduled for the weekend. I bought a copy of Roland Merullo’s Revere Beach Elegy and followed Bella out into the early spring sun.
We spent an hour or so comparing prices at a few of the mom and pop souvenir shops. Each one had an abundance of similar items to tempt buyers: scrimshaw jewelry and other imports from Cape Cod (most including cranberries), seashell wind chimes, old lobster pots converted into tables, and buoys for sale in every primary color. I considered buying a puzzle of the island, but thought, I doubt I’ll have the time to finish it – and quickly pushed the thought out of my head. Even if I hadn’t known, I would have been able to tell we were at an artist’s colony. There were sculptures, watercolor paintings and beautiful pieces done in metal. Nantucket lightship baskets and gold charms led me to the white braided bracelets that children soaked and let shrink to their skin. They were the same ones that turned black by the end of summer and had to be cut off before school, leaving behind a white ring around the wrist where the sun hadn’t touched. I grabbed two for the kids. “Let’s pick up the rest of the souvenirs before we leave, so we don’t have to carry them around,” Bella said.
I paid for the white bracelets and put them into my pocket. “Let’s go eat,” I said. “I’m starving.”
We walked the two blocks to The Black Dog, the historic and legendary tavern whose world-famous ambassador represented the easy Vineyard way of life. It was a big tourist draw, but I was happy to find that the specials featured freshly caught fish and a collection of delicious desserts. After we ate our clam cakes and chowder by an empty fireplace, I ordered apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Cashing out, Bella bought us two matching sweatshirts and one bumper sticker.
“That’s going to be heavy to carry all the way back,” I teased.
She made a funny face. “I’ll be fine.”
As we made our way back to our room, the air temperature dropped and the streets began to fill with people coming out for the night. There were plenty of interesting characters and I’m certainly not shy, but this was a time for just Bella and me. So we kept to ourselves, held hands and walked along in comfortable silence.
After watching a magical sunset, on bended knees I prayed. Father, bless my family – Bella, Riley, Michael and the kids – with good health, both of mind and body. Shroud them in the safety of your angels and allow them to live in a world of peace and harmony. Bless those who have passed from this world. May they live in Your presence for all eternity. Forgive us of our sins and help us on our daily path back to You – Amen.
I realized that for the first time since I’d gotten sick, I’d prayed for only those I loved and not for myself. It felt good. “Good-night,” I said.
“Good-night…and don’t forget to take your medicine before you fall asleep.”
There’s no way I could, I thought. I’ve been in pain all day.
I grabbed an extra blanket from the closet for Bella so I could keep the screen windows open. I took my pills and turned in early for the night. I loved the smell of the ocean and its music lulled me to sleep.
Steve Manchester is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his works, including #1 bestseller Twelve Months. Steve’s next book will be released on June 18. You can learn more about Steve here.