Montauk Community Notes, December 24


At The Southampton Press main office, where I’m busy at work most Mondays, the mood is way merrier than normal for the first day of the week. It’s countdown to our annual holiday break! Remember all those holidays, when you spotted me around town and asked what I’d be doing to celebrate on Monday? More often than not, the answer is, “I’ll be working at the newspaper office.”The reward we gain for missing out on some festivities during the year, is that every last one of us gets an extra vacation week for the winter holidays. Sure, we grouse a bit during the rest of the year but you won’t hear a negative word anytime this week.

In typical scatterbrained fashion, I’ve been running around, continuing my perhaps foolhardy goal of making the house perfect for Christmas. With this goal in mind, once choir practice was over, husband Don and I had devised a loosely-made plan to duck out of church during the “sharing of the peace,” when everyone says hello, shakes hands, gives hugs and expresses tons of good will. I was all set to sneak out through the choir room along with Don, when fellow choir member Pat Cidlowski, who has an especially fine soprano voice, convinced me to stay for the entire “Children’s Sunday” service. You probably know me well enough to guess I’m not that hard to persuade. Kids always provide an extra chuckle or two and here are some of the highlights for you to enjoy.

The special part of the service began with Alex, John and Evan Koutsogiannis doing their own special rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Their Mom, Vicky Koutsogiannis, always wows the congregation with her ability to gently lead and control her small band of boys. She stood at the pulpit and said a few words about how this carol has very special meaning for her, because her brother as a little boy used to tap out the rhythm on his toy drum. I’m not altogether certain which of the handsome, dark-haired, dark-eyed Koutsogiannis boys is which. Alex played keyboards. John, in the middle, made quite a splash with an entire set of drums on which he provided percussive excitement. Evan, the littlest, helped his mom read the words, piping up at appropriate moments, like, “Then, he smiled at me, pa rum pa pum, pum.” My eyes brimmed with tears due to this cuteness. I searched my pockets for a Kleenex. Bravo!

Next was Zebediah Ryan, son of Colin and Kate Ryan giving his own unique interpretation of the Christmas spirit. Both of his parents are grade school teachers. They were seated in the pew directly in back of me, along with Ryan’s little sister, Vera, and grandmother and grandfather, who had traveled to Montauk for this special Children’s service.

Zebediah performed an astonishing dance to a hip-hop version of “Silent Night” via ipod. Not quite seven years old, Zebediah stepped a lively step, right in front of the lighted Advent candles, at times losing himself so much in the moment that his mom waved for him to dance forward. We held our collective breath. Zeb may have even done a bit of “moon walking.”

“The Birth of Jesus Told in the Words of the Children,” a short drama, followed. We won’t soon forget little Vera Ryan in the role of Mary. Her blue robe and shortness of stature, though she’s actually tall for a three-year-old, resulted in some challenges in terms of climbing into her special throne. Madison Schemitz, in the role of story-teller, impressed the congregation with excellent diction. Her much younger brother, Christopher, appeared as a “really big star” attired in an unusual shiny star outfit, and beckoned, “follow me!”

Noelle Hear graciously sang three verses of “Silent Night.” A duet had been planned so she hadn’t been expecting to sing solo. Noelle has lots of poise and singing by herself didn’t seem to unnerve her.

The children’s part of the service concluded with Lea Mancini and Megan White performing a dance they choreographed for, “What Child Is This?” They were graceful in white tulle ballet costumes and, once again, I fumbled for my hankie.

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store,” words written by Dr. Seuss, were printed on the backs of the MCC bulletin for this week.

I watch TV and read newspapers and magazines, though these days, mostly in digital form. I’m as barraged as everyone else by promptings from “the media” to go out and more-or-less purchase a happy holiday.

The holidays keep the economy healthy and somehow we’re always reminded in subtle, or not-so-subtle words, that as good consumers it’s our job to make the economy grow. I find this mind-boggling, if I think too hard about it and how the media has muddled our conception of this time of year.

I unpack old Christmas decorations from their boxes. Pretty much all of our ornaments are old, some a bit dilapidated. Most have meaning connected to how they came into our life. Did this tarnished glass bird with a tattered feather for its tail really belong to grandma? And this painted wooden bird, with 1980 written on it—my mother gave that one to us. A few funny ornaments were handmade from recycled holiday cards by our son, Danny, when he was at Montauk School. Some are falling apart and every year I tell myself I should set aside an hour to repair and re-glue them.

Wishing all readers of The Press Newspapers a very happy holiday season. I’ll be checking my email at during the break, looking out for interesting news and inspiration for upcoming columns. See you in 2016!

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