Stop Talking & Beach Plum Poaching

NickiGalland-headshotBemused readers ask novelist Nicole Galland for her take on navigating the precarious social landscape that comes with living on the Vineyard. Nicole, who grew up in West Tisbury, is known locally as the co-founder of Shakespeare For The Masses at the Vineyard Playhouse. Her combined knowledge of both this island and the world’s greatest melodramas compels her to help prevent unnecessary tragedy wherever possible. Interested in Nicole’s take on your messy Vineyard-centric ethics or etiquette question? Confidentiality ensured. Send your question to

Dear Nicole,
My only daughter has left the Island for college and I’m having a hard time letting go. (I suspect I shouldn’t be driving by her elementary school every day and repeatedly downloading the ferry schedule.)  I am trying not to text and call her too often. It’s a struggle and my waistline is expanding because of it.  But what makes it even worse is all my so–called friends who keep saying their kids call and text and, isn’t it so great they’ve  even skyped with their child’s roommate. How can I get them to stop talking?
Confidentially yours,

Dear Empty–nester,
You can’t get them to stop talking. Even if there was some way to get them to stop talking to YOU about it, they’d all be talking amongst themselves, without you, and you’d know it (it’s a small Island), and then you’d feel like a pariah.

So the real problem to tackle here is either your own rate of texting/angsting, and/or your expanding waistline.

I haven’t seen your waistline so I don’t feel qualified to comment on it, but maybe it’s a good time to mention that many Island yoga, dance and Pilates studios and gyms are moving into their autumn schedule — as are you — and it might not be a bad time to sign on. Or at the very least, when you drive obsessively in front of your child’s school, do it on a bicycle to burn some extra calories. Or better yet, whenever you feel the urge to drive by her school or call her, divert that energy into something you can now do that you could not before you were an empty-nester. Go skinny-dipping in the afternoon. Take a nap. Watch Jerry Springer. Throw a gourmet potluck.  Get overly–invested in town politics. Go out dancing. Fall in love (all over again with your spouse, if you have one). If none of these appeal to you, look to your childless friends or friends with long–grown kids for inspiration.

You’re preoccupied with your absent child mostly because you love her very much, but maybe also just a little because you’re the Helicopter Parent Generation, and you’ve probably invested more energy and self–identity into your kid than your parents’ generation did, so you don’t have that generation as a model for how to cope. How to cope is: see above.

And keep the long view in mind: Congratulations if your kid isn’t constantly checking in with you! Let your friends gush over how effectively they are prolonging their children’s dependency on them. Proudly let them know you have a child who is self–sufficient enough that she doesn’t need to check in with her parents on an hourly basis. Some day soon, when your friends’ kids have also attained that level of independence that yours has already achieved (I’m guessing second semester freshman year), all your friends will look to you as a model, and that will feel awesome. It’s a win all the way around.

That’s my take.


Dear Nicole,
It’s picking season and I found the beach plums. Must I ask the property owner on whose land I found them for permission to pick?
Confidentially yours,
Oak Bluffs

Dear Oak Bluffs,
There are two schools of thought on this topic, neither of which I agree with.
One of them says: Of course you have to ask! Otherwise it’s stealing! And also trespassing, which is always illegal and immoral!

The other one says: Of course you don’t have to ask! It is set down in the Constitution of the Republic of Martha’s Vineyard that we’re all allowed to forage for beach plums!

If we were anywhere but Martha’s Vineyard and it were (almost) anything but beach plums, I’d easily side with the first position. Actually, I do side with the first one — but because it is Martha’s Vineyard, and beach plums — a certain karmic grandfather clause applies.

If you have discovered (either from trespassing or use of easements) beach plum bushes on the property of someone (a) unfriendly (b) with an enormous bounty of beach plums, who (c) has never shown any interest in harvesting said beach plums, it really doesn’t matter what anyone says about it, we both know you’re going to go get those beach plums, so why are you even asking me?

If you choose to tread that path, however, maybe offer beach plum jelly to the property-owners, with a note saying, “If you like this, I’d be honored to keep you in a steady supply in future years, and here’s how you can help me do that…”

That’s my take.