From the October 21, 1994 Just a Thought column by Arthur Railton:
At least a dozen times since Labor Day I’ve been asked, “Did you have a fun summer?” Those of us who live here don’t spend much time thinking about having fun in summer. We’re too busy making sure that everybody else is. Marge and I have a full-time summer job making sure everyone who visits us has fun. The thought that we should be having fun ourselves doesn’t enter our minds. I don’t know what she would say if at breakfast I said, “Let’s have fun today.”
How could we find time to have fun? The kind of fun that you’re supposed to have in summer. Certainly, she couldn’t. She’s too busy shopping, cooking, stocking the refrigerator, getting ferry reservations. For her, that’s summer fun. Making sure everybody else is having fun. I have a fun summer my way: picking up the mail, running a few errands, keeping the boats afloat, the yard moved, the deck furniture painted. It’s all fun. It must be or I wouldn’t be doing it. Nobody’s making me.
For us, summer fun is a joyous half hour of quiet when everybody else is out sailing or at the beach and we have nothing to do but the crossword puzzle or to watch the boats. And wave as they sail by. That’s our summer fun. Might not sound like much fun, but it is.
July and August are happy months because we’re watching everybody else have fun. We’re here all year. We don’t have to have our fun in summer. We have all year.
For them, time is short. They’ve got to crowd in as much fun as possible. Got to keep doing things. Going to the beach, building sand castles, riding the waves, golfing, sailing, rowing, anything to have fun. Fun in the sun, it’s called. Others, with even less time to spend, have to “see” the whole Island in a day. That’s why they came, to see the Island. And they will, all in one day. Fun for them is riding a buzzing moped, dodging tour buses, getting a great view of asphalt. They can’t see the Island’s beauty, they’re too busy watching the road and the traffic. What’s important is to be able to go back home and tell friends they’ve seen the Island, and wearing a T-shirt to prove it.
The more athletic of the fun-seekers rent bikes and head for Gay Head, huffing and puffing up Chilmark’s hills. After a few minutes at the Cliffs, time enough for a cold drink and a view of distant Cuttyhunk, they’re back in the saddle, back to the pedals. Got to get to Vineyard Haven in time for the ferry.
Fun is not easy to define, even when you’re having it. For lots of folks, it’s fun just strolling along Main street, looking in the shop windows, licking an ice cream cone. Something they could do anywhere, even at home. But it’s more fun on Martha’s Vineyard. Strolling down Main Street is something those of us who live here never do, at least not in July and August. We’re the ones you see walking fast, dodging in and out of the strollers like open-filed runners, looking worried, wondering if we’ll get back home in time to start the grille for a fun-filled family cookout. We’re the only ones who aren’t smiling. But that’s our way of having fun in the summer. For some, it’s fun to bounce along in a noisy tour bus, listening to the driver describe our Island. It’s amazing how funny his version is. It’s all in fun, of course. We are having a fun summer, aren’t we?
But none of this is my kind of fun. I have more fun in winter, walking along those same streets on a cold, crisp morning when the sharp west wind makes my ears tingle, my nose drip. It’s always more fun to walk in the winter. But when you come in the house, stamping the snow from your boots, nobody asks, “Are you having fun?” You’re not supposed to be having fun, that’s something you’re allowed to have only on sunny days in summer.
Why is it that nobody ever asks, “Are you having a fun fall?” Or a fun winter. Instead, they ask, “Are you having a rough winter?” Especially on postcards from Florida. Folks down there are hoping it’s rough. The rougher, the better. After all, down there everybody is having a fun winter, standing for hours in a luke warm swimming pool or playing bridge in an air-conditioned playroom.
As for me, I have fun all year, whether I act like it or not. Sometimes I have fun in the library stacks, poring over a pile of books. Sometimes, I’m in the yard listening to chestnuts fall. Or the squirrels growl. Sometimes, I’m raking leaves or shoveling snow. And I’m having fun.
Fun comes easy right now, in the fall. There is hardly a day when I don’t tell myself how much fun I’m having just being alive. Especially here on our choice bit of geography, surrounded by the bluest water, speckled with lacy whitecaps that bring it to life, making it into a happy and joyful ocean. How much more beauty there is in an autumn ocean than in the calm, quiet ocean of summer. Ask a windsurfer. This is when the wind brings the ocean to life. It’s fun just to stand on the beach and stare at it. No sunblock required, no beach umbrella needed, no cars to block the view. It’s just plain fun,
“Are you having a fun fall?”
Indeed, I am. And if you ask me in January, I’ll be having a fun winter, too. Just don’t ask me in April.
Compiled by Alison Mead