"Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!"
That’s how my grandmother, Addie Crist, would greet me when she came to visit my parents and me for the holidays. She would walk into the house, striding purposefully to the front hallway—all five-feet-two inches of her—and grabbing both my hands, would dance around in a happy circle, repeating the phrase over and over again.
If any season or time of year ever came to represent a person in my life, Mimi’s, as I called my grandmother, was most definitely Christmas. What I didn’t know at that time of my youth was that Addie Crist’s special season was eventful for far more than just me and my family.
She had been married to Harris Crist and lived for many years in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was the longstanding managing editor and ultimately co-owner of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The Eagle was a respected daily in its day and had bureaus throughout the world, competing fiercely with all the major papers.
A Home on the Vineyard
Harris sold the paper in the mid-thirties and retired to the Vineyard in 1936. He and Addie had a home designed and built that overlooked the harbor in Vineyard Haven. An elegant structure with five fireplaces, a stately study with a harbor view and five bedrooms, it would be their home until it was sold to the Strock family in the early 1950s.
While Harris was an avid golfer and played “every day there wasn’t snow on the ground” at the Oak Bluffs Country Club (now Farm Neck), my grandmother immersed herself in Vineyard life.
A talented musician who could play by ear, she played the organ at Grace Church. While there, she must have been struck during her favorite time of the year to realize how many children did not receive any presents at all or simply needed clothes, such as a jacket or mittens.
Six Christmas Stockings
Thus, in 1938 Addie got a few friends together and knitted six Christmas stockings, filled them with toys and gave them away to needy children.
It was a small beginning, but now 76 years later, the Red Stocking Fund is a major Island initiative that helps more 300 families each year, and most important to my grandmother, spreads the message of Christmas giving far and wide.
I remember vividly Addie’s last Christmas at our house in 1965. Despite a weakened heart, she danced with me in circles in the front hallway and happily gave out her presents on Christmas morning.
She danced with me in circles in the front hallway.
The next day, while resting in bed with the sounds of her children and grandchildren filling the air around her, she put down her book, folded her glasses on the side table and quietly passed away. She had determinedly made sure that she had spent one last Christmas with those she loved most.
Merry Christmas, Mimi! Christmas is coming, Christmas is here!
--Post by David Lott, Principal Broker, Vineyard Open House Real Estate. This article originally appeared in the Vineyard Gazette, Dec. 23, 2014.