There are lots of good reasons to live in my part of Vermont. During the summer months, those reasons include a proliferation of free concerts in White River Junction and Norwich as well as just over the Connecticut River in Lebanon and Hanover, New Hampshire.
The music has been exceptional this year from classic rock to the blues to rockin’ country to Celtic to reggae, folk, funk, and big band.
As you can imagine, this summertime pleasure has inspired a Carding Chronicle.
Carding, Vermont is the fictional town inspired by the region known as the Upper Valley that straddles the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. I think it’s an exceptionally wonderful place to live. There are now four novels about Carding for you to enjoy. You will find links to them below.
Thanks so much for stopping by and please introduce all your friends to Carding.
By the middle of August, the grass on Carding green showed the marks of many feet around the gazebo on its western end. Paula Bouton smiled at the town common’s trampled condition. It was, she believed, a testament to the best concert season the town had ever had.
“That was a job well done,” she told her assistant, Tim Yu. “I do believe you scheduled something for everyone.”
He grinned, pleased with praise from the town manager. “And there’s still one more to go.”
“Indeed,” Paula said as she finished off the last of her morning’s second cup of tea. “We’d better get ready for the onslaught.”
The Carding Summer Concert series has a very long history, as these things go. Its advent stretches back to the early 1990s when Ted Owens and Diana Bennett and Bruce Elliott decided that their band, the Belmont Street Irregulars, was good enough to perform publicly. Though originally planned as a one-of, it was such as success, the town decided to make music on the green a summer tradition.
During that first season, a high school band concert followed the Irregulars, and they, in turn, were followed by a jazzy swing combo. Pretty soon Cooper’s General Store set up an ice cream truck, then lawn chairs appeared, and finally, the younger families in town showed up with strollers, picnic suppers, and blankets.
As a general rule, the adult members of the audience stay in their seats during a concert, tapping their toes or nodding their heads in time to the music. The children, however, are an entirely different story.
Freed (mostly) from their hovering parents, the kids take full advantage of the empty space in front of the stage and the gaps among the blankets and chairs, running, twirling, and tumbling to their hearts’ content.
The youngest teenagers gather near the sycamores in the center of the green, all of them knowing they are way too cool to dance. Instead of boogying, the boys check out the girls, and the girls try to figure out what the boys are thinking. Further back from the stage, the older teens participate in elaborate-though-unrehearsed rituals that sometimes include strategic retreats into the green’s darker corners.
As the years have passed, the air of the green has been filled with classic rock, reggae, Celtic music, country bands, salsa, an annual appearance by a local pops band, different varieties of funk and folk, and once, to everyone’s great delight, a polka band that managed to get everyone on the green to dance at the same time.
Even the young teenagers.
Paula was especially excited about this particular concert. Ever since her engagement to Ted Owens, she’d been trying to persuade his father, Robert, to break out of his assisted living apartment and come back to Carding for one of the musical events. She’d seen pictures in the town archives of Robert dancing on the green with Ted’s mother, Anna, and so she looked for a big band to play the last Carding Concert just for him.
After a bit of hemming and hawing, the older man finally agreed, and Paula wanted everything to be perfect, and that, of course, made her anxious.
In order to relieve her anxiety, she got in her assistant’s way all day as he organized the farmer’s market that had become an intrinsic part of concert nights. He heaved an enormous, though inaudible, sigh of relief when Paula finally left to pick up Robert.
Now Robert has Parkinson’s disease which is why he opted to live in an assisted living facility. He figured that taking care of him would be too much of a burden on his son.
Ted disagrees but Robert has won the argument…so far.
The older gentleman had had some misgivings about the effort it would take to return to his hometown. But those misgivings disappeared as soon as his feet touched the grass of Carding Green.
So many friends and former neighbors stopped to greet him, it took Paula nearly thirty minutes to guide Robert to a seat close to the bandstand. Then she brought him dinner from one of the farmers market vendors, a plate of stir-fry with chicken and noodles.
While he ate, his granddaughter, Suzanna, proudly towed several of her friends over to meet him.
Robert thought it was all perfect.
When the musicians showed up, a murmur of anticipation rippled through the crowd, and Robert leaned forward in his seat. “Is that a big band?” he asked his son who had settled on a picnic blanket near his father’s feet.
Ted nodded. “Yeah, Paula found this one special for you.”
Robert looked around the green, noting the number of gray heads mixed among the other colors. “It will be special for other people as well. I can guarantee you that.”
As the music started to flow through the warm evening air, the band moved seamlessly through Big Band classics from “Take the A Train” to “Stompin’ at the Savoy” to “Tuxedo Junction.” The youngest children swept through the crowd, squealing as they chased one another from one corner to the next. Some of the teenagers peeked out from among the trees. A couple of women started dancing with one another off to one side while the rest of the audience nodded and clapped.
At first, Robert swayed from side to side in his seat, a big grin stretched over his face, his feet keeping time. Ted reached over to take Paula’s hand.
“I think you have a real hit on your hands,” he said. Paula nodded. But then her eyes widened and she pointed over Ted’s shoulder.
Robert had risen to his full six-foot height, towering above his walker. He raised his hands above his head to clap. Then he began to sway his hips in time to the music.
At first, no one else followed his example even though you could hear folks saying “Look, look” all over the green.
As they watched, Robert held out his hands to Paula. “I can’t swing the way I used to when I danced with Anna but I can’t sit still when this music is playing,” he said. “I think I can take a few steps. What do you think?”
“I think you’re wonderful,” Paula said as she matched his uncertain gait. Robert’s grin widened. And then, as the first bars of Benny Goodman’s “In the Mood” drifted through the summer air, stars appeared along the edge of the mountains, and the people of Carding danced.
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, Lights in Water, Dancing, has just become available for your reading pleasure. All the Carding novels are available on Amazon or you can order them through your local independent bookstore.
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’d like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.