A lot of small towns and villages develop local celebrations that are unique unto themselves. It could be a snowshoe volleyball tournament or a raft race just after the ice goes out in a river or an annual fair.
There are a couple of this type of event in Carding but none is so quirky and special as the annual celebration of Oona Lovejoy’s birthday.
Oona was the drama teacher in Carding High School in the 1960s. She also wrote plays and started a youth theater program that’s still going strong.
She was a larger-than-life gal with a special way of celebrating her February birthday. This year, Oona would be delighted to know she’s about to have an impact on town meeting.
“What do you mean, they didn’t like your sewing box?” Clark Underwood’s eyebrows kissed one another in the center of his forehead. “That’s the most absurd thing I’ve heard in a long time.”
“I know what you mean,” his wife, Brenda, said as she divested her arms and hands of the accoutrements of winter—purse, gloves, car keys, scarf, hat, and the offending sewing box. “You should have seen all those women in the guild, groveling to this G.G. Dieppe. It was…disturbing.”
She started to stuff her gloves into her jacket pockets when her fingers touched a piece of paper. “Oh, and then there’s this.” She handed her husband a pink brochure. “I found it stuffed under my windshield wiper.”
Clark smoothed the page out on their kitchen table in order to read it out loud:
Attention members of the Mount Merino Landowners Association
You will join the effort to bring class and efficiency to Carding, Vermont when you attend the kickoff meeting of the “G.G. Dieppe for Selectwoman” campaign at the Mount Merino Golf Club on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m.
It is critical that the rights of our landowners association be recognized and the significant contributions we make to the town—both financial and cultural—be considered in all local affairs.
G.G. Dieppe will make that happen with your support.
This is a compulsory meeting for people involved in this critical campaign which she feels should include all Mount Merino members.
There will be a cash bar. Please bring snacks to share.
Clark looked up, his eyebrows now reaching for his hairline, as he started to laugh. “This can’t be serious.”
Brenda dropped her jacket on a hook inside their hall closet door. “I assure you it is. Pour me a glass of wine, would you, and I’ll tell you about my night.”
As these husband-and-wife chat things go, Brenda gave this one an A+. Clark surprised her by voicing his own doubts about living among the golf-obsessed on Mount Merino. She was glad to hear that. In addition, they both realized they didn’t know enough about the town of Carding and needed to spend more time in the village.
Even though they appreciated the free-from-maintenance lifestyle that you get in a condo, they wondered out loud if they would be happier living in a house in town, complete with the fuss and bother of a lawn and gardens.
“So, are you going to take this Reverend Lloyd’s advice and seek out this Edie Wolfe?” Clark asked as they got ready for bed.
“Oh definitely,” Brenda said.
Her reply made Clark smile as he fell asleep because he knew what happened when his wife got riled up, and it was so much fun to watch.
The next morning, it took Brenda only a matter of minutes to locate the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts, and she was rather embarrassed she had not visited it before. She’d always liked Victorian architecture with its gingerbread details and beveled-glass windows, and this place had it in spades.
The front door was heavy but swung open easily, proof that someone paid attention to the important things. Brenda gasped with pleasure as she stepped into the art-filled foyer of the home built by Joseph Stillman Croft. She hadn’t expected to see work like this in such a small town.
But the momentary pleasure was tempered when a familiar song boomed over the sound system.
“All you need is love.”
Ba ba ba ba bah.
“All you need is love, love,
Love is all you need.”
Upstairs, several voices belted out the refrain of the Beatles’ song followed by laughter.
Suddenly a woman came sprinting down the hallway carrying a box filled with colored papers of all descriptions, the pair of glasses perched on her head matching the pair of glasses perched on her nose.
“Hello!” she called up the stairs. “I could use a hand down here.”
And then Edie Wolfe noticed Brenda. “Oh, sorry about this. You caught us in the middle of chaos.”
The sound of feet cascaded downstairs. “Sorry, Gram,” a tall young woman, all arms and legs, said as she scooped the box from the older woman’s hands. “We got carried away. We love singing along with those old songs.”
Edie and Brenda both winced, noticed the other’s expression, and then laughed together.
“I’ll never get used to hearing that music called ‘old,’” Edie said, stretching out her hand. “I’m Edie Wolfe, the Academy’s executive director. How may I help you?”
Brenda liked the feel of the other woman’s handshake, firm, warm, and no-nonsense. Too many women have flabby ways of using this greeting.
“Brenda Underwood. Reverend Lloyd sent me,” she said. “Well, in a way he did.”
She gestured up the staircase where the colored paper had disappeared. “Seems as if you have something special going on here.”
Edie scoped out the other woman, matching what she saw with the description furnished by her friend the priest in a late evening phone call the night before. Brenda Underwood didn’t look like a spy from Mount Merino (whatever that might look like) so she decided to trust Gordon’s instincts.
The music started up again but this time, the volume was lower.
“It’s winter school break,” Edie said, “and the Academy hosts an annual week of open studio days in preparation for Oona Lovejoy’s birthday.”
“Oona Lovejoy? Is that some artist I’ve never heard of?”
Edie laughed. “Well, Oona was an artist but not the kind you’re thinking of. She was the drama teacher at our high school in the 1960s, and the founder of our youth theater program. She was quite a character, and sooner or later, everyone in Carding was touched by her.”
Edie pointed down the hallway toward her office, and Brenda noticed that its walls were covered with signs and posters all designed around one word: Love.
“When she was here, Oona celebrated her birthday by papering the town with love, literally. She stuck ‘Love’ signs everywhere and the idea caught on. Now it’s an annual February event.”
Edie smiled at her guest. “Why don’t you join me in a cup of tea so we can have a conversation about your guild meeting last night. I understand there were some absurd objections to your sewing box.”
You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on
May 18, June 15, 2018. And yes, it will be available on Amazon.com.
You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.
If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.