2014-12-24 / Opinion

Savor Winter Sundays


Summer in Newport is a bustle for the tourist dollar, a hustle for a parking spot, a ticket on your windshield or to a mansion tour.

Winter is for Newporters, by Newporters, among Newporters. It is that glorious, tranquil time, the “off” season when natives reclaim what they reluctantly share with the rest of the world from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

Sunday mornings reveal the perfect Newport winter solstice snapshot. Sundays are where dog walkers can straddle five breeds of teacup-to-mastiff-sizes simultaneously, without breaking stride for a loud human crowd outside a pub; shoppers along Thames Street can get that T-shirt with the fitting slogan for a song on the eve of Christmas; a man may carry an antique metal-and-leather bellows along Memorial Boulevard and look as natural as the white-crested waves crashing Easton’s Beach.

Stand amid the current sidewalk construction project there and you’ll see children examining a pile of red bricks displaced until the avenue is whole again; look left and fashionably-dressed parishioners are descending the hill down Queen Anne Square, leaving the morning service at Trinity Church; go right past Seamen’s Church Institute around 11 a.m. and the members of AA are holding their hands fast in solidarity and sobriety at their weekly meeting, ending their hour together with the Prayer of Serenity by Reinhold Niebuhr. Unobserved, they pass the hat around the conference table for the greater good.

Last Sunday, raw and damp, was full of events that delighted; at 2 p.m., girls of many ages flocked to the Edward King Senior Center for two floors of crafts, cookie decorating and an American Girl Doll Holiday Party and fashion stroll sponsored by the Recreation Department. Giggles abounded and Tourist Barbie quaked in trepidation in Anywhere, U.S.A.

At 3 p.m., milk and cookies were passed out as Santa visited The Elms in one annual December tradition, while simultaneously at Touro Synagogue, latkes were passed out and Chanukah candles lit the Menorah in another rite that goes back to 1763.

From 4 to 5 p.m., Focal Winds Ensemble played music on Thames Street in front of Armory Antiques and Marketplace, followed by Christmas carols sung outside by Tiernan Chase & Company Singers, augmenting Thames Street shopping as the dog walkers – five breeds, no straddling – strode by once more.

Another Santa with two adult elves walked toward Thames, waving to passersby who asked one of the elves how the kids were – her kids. On December Sundays in Newport, the crowd knows their Santa personally.

All of this was seen over a mere few blocks.

Sundays in January may not be as eventful as holiday eve, but they are yours; they are the stuff that nativity is made of – Newport nativity; the daily stone walks that tourists will never experience because their fleeting, flitting summer stops are designed only to see what is happening instead of what is really going on.

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