By Sam Low
Vineyard Gazette, September 5, 2003
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.
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:
afternoon there was large parade downtown. The unemployed evidently
got very mad at the unemployment situation.
another from the 1931 "Merry Christmas Edition:"
Vulneraba - He was not wounded
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.