Sam Low homepage Contact Sam Library Biography Gallery Screening Room Forbears Notebook
OB gazebo
Library - Martha's Vineyard


A Family Gathering
By Sam Low
Vineyard Gazette, September 5, 2003

Every Saturday of Labor Day weekend, for as long as I can remember, I attend a family reunion which is called, simply, The Bash. Such end-of-summer gatherings are common on the Vineyard and so I think of The Bash as part of our island's unique social fabric and perhaps even emblematic of it.

There are some special qualities, nevertheless, to this reunion. First, it's organized by three gentlemen who were school chums - and cousins - more than six decades ago. As very young teenagers, they wanted to travel to Bermuda. "Sure," said the parents - "but only if you pay for it," thinking that would put an end to the matter. But the chums published a newspaper called the Current Events of the Week and used the profits to make the trip. Here's a typical news item from March, 1931, the depression era:

Large Parade

Friday afternoon there was large parade downtown. The unemployed evidently got very mad at the unemployment situation.

Here's another from the 1931 "Merry Christmas Edition:"

Non Vulneraba - He was not wounded

Little Georgie Flannagan, the littlest child in the Shuttle Meadow school, fell down the stairs recently after being pushed. He went down head over heels. When he stopped, he landed in a little ball and, however, non vulneraba, he was a brave little boy and he did not cry.

About 15 years ago, they reconstituted the paper in a more expansive form, calling it (somewhat grandiloquently) the Current Events of the World - a family newsletter which we all receive about once a month. The funds from this endeavor pay for The Bash.

Another quality that may distinguish The Bash is that we define 'family' very widely: an expansive circle of first, relatives; second, folks with some connection to our Vineyard community; then friends of these two groups, or house guests or whomever one of us thinks might enjoy The Bash. It's a rippling circle of folks, inclusive rather than exclusive.

At the center of it all, the three chums preside as elders would over a tribal campfire. Among one tiny Pacific Island society I have visited, three chiefs divide the island's tasks into realms political, social and spiritual. It's like that with us. At The Bash, the chums speak about the condition of our group's elders, the births and weddings among us, and end with a spiritual message from one of them - a minister in East Harlem for more than 50 years.

This time our spiritual elder reminded us of two recent events - the blackout in New York and the war in Iraq. Referring to the former, he told of moments in which the human instinct for caring and compassion resulted in an expression of oneness among New Yorkers as they coped with elevators that would not work, with darkened streets and medical emergencies. Referring to the latter, he asked us to consider what might happen if our nation marshaled such compassion and extended it to the people of Iraq and to others less fortunate than we.

The chums - and our relationship to them - hold us together much like the chiefs of that tiny pacific island. For a moment, every Labor Day weekend, we are united by our common humanity and our caring for our own special island. It's a time of solidarity not just with each other but with the larger world - a time to expand our sense of family outward. A phrase like "the family of man" comes to mind.

Sam home | Biography | Library | Gallery | Screening Room | Forbears | Notebook | Contact Sam

Site, text, and images Copyright © 2002 Sam Low. All rights reserved. Any or all content may not be used without Sam's permission.