Christine Pease, courtesy of Carol Fligor.
Ninety-four Vineyard Christmas birthdays!
Although Mrs. Annie Vincent holds the Boston Post cane as senior resident of Edgartown (she turned 94 last May, if I am correct) she was not born on Christmas Day itself ninety-four years ago. This seasonable distinction belongs to Christine Pease, who will celebrate her 94th birthday and Christmas together a week from Sunday. What changes she must have seen in Edgartown’s Yuletide celebration!
Many times I have heard her account of that other-century holiday morn, on which she opened her eye’s at Tom’s Neck Farm, Chappaquiddick.
Charles Wesley Pease and his wife, Parnell, had taken their eight children from their Summer street home in Edgartown to “spend Christmas at the farm.” There were also assorted relatives and hired help to join in the fete — included in these was competent Aunt Eliza Pease. The Pease baby-to-be was not expected for some time, so Parnell went placidly, if unusually busily, about a farmwife’s duties. To procure the wild turkey for their dinner, her husband had but to get his rifle and seek out one of the birds plentiful then on Chappy. This she would stuff well in advance of its placement in her wood-burning stove. Tisdale, eldest Pease boy, would chop down a feathery fir — biggest he could find on the 200 acre farm lot, and Nell or Sadie would garland it not only with the traditional strings of popcorn and cranberries but also swags of bright hips from the rugosa rose bushes, much harder to pierce with a needle. Mary would have made a whole crock full of ginger cookies — and these would go within twenty-four hours. All in all, when the luminous constellation in the East dimmed lesser stars, the bayberry candles Sadie had dipped and laboriously re-dipped might be snuffed out at bedtime with feelings of accomplishment.


Part of Christmas Festivity

Suddenly, early Christmas morn, the coming baby indicated she, too, wanted to be a part of the Christmas festivity. Routed out of his four-poster and the comforting warmth of his feather bed, Charles Pease was begged to fetch the well-regarded, also well-to-do, Dr. Mayhew who lived not far from the Summer street home of the Peases, and quickly he rushed to the stable. His hands fumbled with thills and tugs, as he hastily harnessed Fannie to his rig. Then as fast as this somewhat slow roader could go, he hurried to the harborfront. He did not wait for blind old Consider Fisher, the ferry-man, to row across the gab between the main Island and Chappy, for he kept his own rowboat on the shore, but the day was cold, his hands stiff, and he alone; it took more than ordinary effort to get the heavy dory into the water.
Dr. Mayhew, on being wakened, complained he suffered from some “distemper,” and was too weak to harness his buggy, and far too weak to walk even the short distance to the ferry. Resourceful Charles Pease insisted that he come and offered to wheel him to the ferry in a wheelbarrow and return him to his home in the same conveyance. Heavily bundled up against the cold, the dignified physician was bumped along to the ferry slop by a panting father. Helped into the rowboat, pushed up into the farm wagon, he sat huddled and muttering on the seat as Fannie took the gentle grades of the dirt roads, now snow-covered, urged on by Charles Pease’s whip.
Meanwhile, Christine Pease, assisted into the world by a neighbor Wampanoag woman, Sarah Martin, and her Aunt Eliza, was, in her own phrase, “sitting up and smiling” — waiting to welcome the reluctant medical man her father had shanghaied in a barrow.

Team of Doctors and Nurses

Today, the Christmas baby comes in an elaborately equipped hospital with a team of doctors and nurses in attendance, gifts and fanfare from the hospital organization and next day a write-up, even photographs in some pretty nurse’s arms, in a morning paper — so far have we travelled since that Christmas ninety-four years ago.
If Christine J. Pease’s write-up in the paper was Edgartown’s Christmas Baby of 1872 (or 1873 - I could be wrong), is ninety-four (or ninety-three) years late, at least the acclaim that she and Mrs. Vincent are likely to receive from their fellow townsfolk for having wintered so well and long will be a sign that the presence of these non-agenarians in our midst gives us a sense not only of continuity but our moments of inspiration that two oldsters are alert and getting about in their homes and taking an interest in their neighbors and their town. To them at the Christmas season, go all good wishes for the holidays and their very special days, as they arrive.