After a Saturday of cold and bleak, sunshine has returned to Chestertown.
All barn inhabitants are up and accounted for.
Tanker, our weekend guest, seems comfortable enough on the dog couch.
While Iggy seems unable to remember the host’s obligation to offer up the better bed.
Kato, though not yet an active participant in the morning caffeine ritual, is lending his mighty gusts of breath to help cool my coffee.
Alden and Monkey are refusing to admit that they’re actually awake.
Lily is contemplating change.
While Oscar is wishing that his breakfast was not a thing of the past.
I’m cleaning the house, weeding out unnecessary plastic items that have accumulated in the toy bins. There are no pictures of my industry.
For her part, Robbi is painting, painting, painting.
We have a meeting with another publisher in New York this coming week and so have decided to create a new book to pitch. We think we have a good idea, but unfortunately the good idea happened just a week ago, and unfortunately, the good idea is incredibly complex and difficult to execute.
So Robbi is in accelerated mode, trying to get enough of the new book done that others can see what a good idea it really is.
One of the few downsides of life in the barn (and Chestertown, in general) is the lack of nearby woods. My love of New England is tethered to my love of being constantly surrounded by trees and the sound of the wind rushing through thousands of leaves.
Dad and Judy’s house is in the woods, on a bluff above a creek. So the kids got to play among the trees.
The ground was covered with crunchy brown leaves, and the Kato got his first real chance to experience the fun of rolling around in them.
The bluff offers some wonderful exposed rock formations, and a number of nooks perfectly sized for small people.
This, according to Grandpa John, is Alden’s cave.
Just the right size for one small girl and her invited guest.
This, on the other hand, is Kato’s. Smaller, of course, in keeping with his relative compactness.
Alden found Kato’s cave too cozy for her liking, and so she wandered off.
Leaving her brother to contemplate the nature of solitude.
His conclusion was that solitude is overrated when the alternatives include rolling in leaves with one’s sister.
Or climbing up the bluff.
Or humming a cheerful tune while padding photogenically through the woodlands.
I missed the caving expedition, as I was inside working. But I’m glad that they were outside not working, with Dad, recently retired, and subsequently also not working.
That night, we had a fire on the stone patio, surrounded by woods.
The kids had their first s’mores, which they found too hot and too gooey and less satisfying than an uncooked marshmallow, comfortably cool, soft and yet solid.
The insects thrummed among the branches as the sparks flew, and a good time was had by all.
Perhaps you have been contemplating a visit to Chestertown, lovely and historic, quaint and quintessential? If so, this weekend offers all the usual benefits of our friendly and hospitable burgh with the added bonus of a bunch of very tall ships. It is, after all, Downrigging Weekend, the yearly gathering of large, old, beautiful ships along our waterfront.
There are boat tours, boat rides, lectures about boats, concerts taking place in the proximity of boats, and food that tastes better when eaten on a boat. Anything boat-related you can think of will probably happen this weekend in Chestertown.
You may check out the full lineup of happenings here, but we are particularly excited about the following:
Fireworks at 7pm on Friday (for those who enjoy seeing things explode).
The famous jazz harmonica player Frederic Yonnet, at the Prince Theater on Saturday night. Apparently, he has played with Stevie Wonder and Prince, and apparently, Dave Chappelle is a big fan.
This guy is incredible. Check it out (the actual song starts around the 2-minute mark):
On with the festivities:
Trick-or-treating on the tall ships on Sunday at 2:30.
Kids harmonica workshop with Frederic Yonnet on Saturday from 3-4. The first 10 kids get a free harmonica.
On Sunday from 11-4:30 kids can enjoy pumpkin decorating, model boat building, bird and snake beholding, and a tank of aquatic creatures that they touch. All of this happens near boats, of course.
All I’m saying is, Chestertown is where it’s happening this weekend.
Of course, we can say that of every weekend in Chestertown.
Yesterday afternoon, the kids and I flew back home from Kansas City. As is the custom, we were offered in-flight snacks. I opened a bag for each of the kids, the idea being, each kid would eat a bag of snacks.
Here are the snacks in question.
As you will see from the packaging, each bag contained a variety of snacks, including pretzels and a variety of crackers. While the kids ate, I was doing some writing. At one point, I looked over and noticed something unexpected.
Alden’s pile of snacks looked like this.
And Kato’s looked like this.
Apparently Alden, self-appointed mistress of snack distribution, removed all of the pretzels and dark brown crackers from Kato’s pile in exchange for all of the light brown crackers for which she had no use. I felt a moment of moral outrage on Kato’s behalf, but he seemed unfazed.
Alden, on the other hand was in a state of high dander, clearly pleased with herself for having pulled off what must have seemed like a grand caper, or so one would assume by the way that she cackled.
Both kids ate their fill of crackers, and eventually the plane landed. Back at the terminal, we were reunited with a weary-seeming Robbi who was grateful to find herself in the company of someone other than Iggy and two ungratifying cats.
One of the side benefits of spending a week at Dad’s house is access to the miscellany of my past. For example, the following, found on the back of an index card in the box where Dad keeps his addresses.
It is an invitation to an elementary school birthday party, my elementary school birthday party.
I can’t decide whether to preemptively make fun of myself or to let you do the honors. What is more embarrassing? That I seem to have forgotten my own phone number or that, once I wrote it down incorrectly, I was unwilling to start over and simply crossed it out?
If I remember right, this particular party coincided with my darkest adolescent hour, when I was overweight, wore thick plastic glasses, and parted my hair in the middle. I was wretched and insecure (like so many of us were, I suppose), thoroughly unfit to host a proper party.
Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that the exclamation point probably unnecessary.
I was the first one up this morning and came downstairs to enjoy a few minutes of calm before the kids got up and the rest of the household got moving. I was standing at the kitchen counter pouring myself a cup of coffee when I glanced up and saw something I hadn’t really noticed in a long time.
I am a Swanson, as is my father, of course. To celebrate and affirm this fact on the occasion of his marriage back in 1995, I made this piece of stained glass, which now hangs in the entryway of his home.
These days, my “making” is largely limited to pushing words around a page and wrangling stacks of paper into bound volumes. But for a while, I was an enthusiastic stained glass window maker. I’ve often thought that I would enjoy taking it up again when I can find some free time.
Maybe when the new baby comes? If I remember right, small children are known to thrive in proximity to lead.
According to the best estimates of the medical community, we’re 55 days and counting.
As we ramp up to start our children’s book press, we are trying to get a sense of what kinds of books we want to make, and what kinds of readers we are hoping to attract.
As is often the case when looking for the perfect words, someone else seems to have come up with them already. Which is to say, there’s not much about the following proclamation that we don’t agree with.