I want to stay with Tracey and Chris for a couple days and talk to their three children. They all read and can tell me what’s hot in books for young people. Knights? Princesses? Wizards? Vampires? Clue me in, kiddies and I’ll invent an adventure.
Chris’s own tastes are a bit more sophisticated. He teaches high school English, coaches the school newspaper, and currently is reading Roberto Bolaño, a Chilean author who writes about dreams and hallucinations and the lost young voices of revolution. Heady stuff.
Tracey is an art teacher working on her own abstract compositions. They visited Fern Forest during school vacation, taking a break from their farmhouse near Amherst, Massachusetts, and leaving the children in the able hands of the grandparents. When they’re home, life is busy. In the summer Chris uses his tractor to harvest five cords of wood to keep his three stoves burning. Tracey has a hive of bees and tends a Morgan horse, chickens, several cats and a dog.
The Treehouse was the perfect getaway. They came over the snowy Appalachian Gap and it was just dark when Chris gunned the car up the driveway. They didn’t feel like going out into the cold again, so I whipped up a pot of pasta, vegetarian out of respect for Chris’s palate, with chicken sausage on the side for the rest of us. H’s best friend and our closest neighbor Alex came up and joined us because his wife was out of town. Tracey contributed a bottle of wine, tastier (and pricier, I suspect) than the brand I keep on hand. There was talk of wine (Tracey’s sister is in the winery business) and tractors (Alex knows all about brush hogs and tillers and the like) and teaching (H and I are retired public school teachers) and books. Tracey and Chris seemed to enjoy kicking back, which I don’t imagine they get to do very often with a full house.
It was frigid on their first night and below zero in the morning when Chris came in. I offered coffee, and he poured himself a cup and one for Tracey and then tromped back out to the Treehouse, his bootlaces trailing behind him, balancing a cup in each hand. For a boy from New Jersey, he’s pretty hardy.
At breakfast I asked them about their plans for the day. They didn’t have any—just wanted to relax. They spent the day shopping for gifts for family and stopped into the Bobcat for an early dinner. When they returned, Chris said they had found the Goodwill store in South Burlington and filed through boxes of old vinyl records. They found a few collectibles and settled on a fair price.
“Do you have a turntable?” I asked.
“No,” Chris said, “but we like the album covers.”
They lingered by our wood stove before trekking out through single digit temps to the Treehouse for a second night. They climbed the vertical ladder to the loft eight feet above the main floor, putting them 40 feet over the earth. Moonlight reflected off the snow. All was quiet.
Chris said sleeping in the Treehouse was “like being a kid again except you're an adult and it's better.” I’ll bet he listened to vinyl records when he was a kid. Maybe next trip they’ll find a turntable at Restore.