I spotted Lynnie’s booth a moment after we had arrived. Mom wanted to start from the beginning and work her way down the street. I hadn’t wanted to come because these things took forever, and Mom walked so slowly, and I got thirsty in the heat. But Dad was working that Saturday, and, at nine years old and almost going into fourth grade, Mom didn’t believe I could be left alone at home, even if I protested to the contrary. She came to the fair every year; this year, my only consolation was that Lynnie would be there.
“Mom,” I tugged her shirt while she looked at the small planters inevitably present at small, local, arts fairs.
“Yes, Emma,” she pretended not to be annoyed.
“Lynnie’s here. Can we go to Lynnie’s booth?”
“We’ll get there soon enough.”
She glanced at a price tag, wrinkled her nose, and continued browsing.
I folded my hands and waited as patiently as I could. Mom moved on to the photography booth next door. She talked to the artist about a photograph of the river, complimented his work. I tapped my foot, fidgeted, and stared at the sky, hoping that at least the photographer might take a hint. Lynnie’s booth was still four booths away.
“Now?” I asked as sweetly as I could.
That was her favorite phrase.
We were now looking at painted glass plates. I didn’t think they were very pretty. Mom considered buying a “simply adorable” cheese plate. I told her they looked like yellow triangles on a plate. She bought it anyway, insisting on giving exact change, which slowed us even more.
On our way to the next booth—more photography, of animals this time—I crossed my arms and dragged my feet.
“Emma, walk properly. We will skip Lynnie’s booth if you keep this up.”
I let my arms fall to my sides and practically marched beside my mother, who considered my walking like that perfectly appropriate. At the animal photography booth, my mother seemed to make a point of taking her time, analyzing each detail of every photograph. I did my best to be patient. I began making up stories in my head. We could act them out after school next week.
Finally, after much feet shuffling and nearly inaudible sighing, we reached the booth before Lynnie’s. I watched her booth while my mother browsed quilts. She asked my opinion several times, wondering aloud if I really needed a new comforter for my bed, but I waved her off each time.
Lynnie was talking with three women, probably around sixty, undoubtedly from the city. No one from our town wore spring suits, no matter how light the fabric, no matter how fair the pastels. They were beautiful clothes, accented by the pearl chokers and earrings the ladies wore: they looked so elegant I could hardly tear my eyes away. They chattered quietly, flashing perfect white teeth and curled eyelashes brushed with mascara. And there was Lynnie in her paint-splattered t-shirt and blue jeans.
The women fawned over sets of bowls and cups. Lynnie rattled off prices and explained the process to the woman who had asked about it. Mom finished browsing quilts, took my hand, and we walked up behind the women.
One examined the bottom of a cup, her eyes squinting. She had shoulder-length brown hair, meticulously curled under. A gold bracelet rattled against her bony wrist.
“What a lovely signature. What does it stand for?” She asked.
Lynnie’s interlocking “L” and “E” looked like calligraphy. Even the mugs at the old Victorian, just for our personal use, bore her trademark. Without seeing what the New York woman was looking at, I could describe it for her: the “E” to the right, nestled in the elongated nook of the “L,” ornamental curls marking the beginning of each letter.
“Lynnie Enson.” The woman nodded, one corner of her mouth sliding upward.
“Beautiful name. Is Lynnie short for anything?” She asked, placing the cup back on the shelf. She stepped back, evaluating a complete set of pottery.
“Well, I think we’ll take three sets.” Another chimed in.
“Stunning, simply stunning. Where did you study?” The same woman who had examined the cup asked.
“I’m largely self-taught.” Lynnie replied. She gathered the sets and began to wrap the pieces while the women glanced amongst one another nervously, looking for another subject of conversation.
“The Hudson Valley is famous for its artisans,” the third woman noted, repeating a typical tourist platitude, “were your parents also artists?”
The first woman shook her arms and the second one shifted her weight. Lynnie tried to speed her wrapping.
“I was actually born in the city.” She rolled a saucer hurriedly, her fingers accelerating into a blur.
“I do understand. Sometimes country life is so enticing.” The other women nodded their heads as if they had felt the same magnetic pull, which, of course, they hadn’t.
Lynnie nodded as she moved on to the last set. When she had finished, she placed the sets in three nice paper bags, took the three separate checks, and handed them their purchases.
“Oh, I forgot the business cards.” She exclaimed, grabbing three on the table and distributing one to each. “Thank you. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.”
The women said “goodbye,” waved, and moved on. Mom decided I could do without a new spring quilt. The two of us rushed forward before anyone else could interrupt. Lynnie, relieved to encounter people she knew, hugged us tightly.
“Hello Emma, Kathleen.”
“You’re looking very busy. How wonderful.” My mother congratulated. She gestured to all the pottery. Her eyes settled first on a pitcher.
“Yes, I’m pleased by the turnout. This is my first fair in the Hudson. I’d forgotten how tiring it can b,” she glanced toward the receding backs of the city women. “Chatty—a bit unusual.” She pulled and twisted her fingers uncomfortably.
“I can’t imagine where they get the energy,” my mother remarked, moving toward the pitcher. I walked closer to Lynnie, hoping my mother would let me stay with her when she had finished looking.
“No children to run after,” Lynnie replied cheekily, knowing my mother would appreciate that answer. Lynnie never lacked to the energy to go running after us.
“Ahh, but you’re young yourself. You look hardly twenty-three.” My mother brandished a finger, taking her matronly reputation to heart.
“Oh, I’m a fair bit older than that.” Lynnie laughed.
A bowl with multi-colored swirls perched behind Lynnie caught my mother’s eye.
“May I see that?” She asked.
Lynnie passed the bowl to my mother. Mom turned it around in her hands.
“How much?” S
“For you, twenty.”
Lynnie held her hands out, whether to place it back on the shelf or wrap it to take home.
“I insist. How much is it regularly?” My mother clung tightly to the bowl, waiting for an answer to release it.
“Thirty-five,” she mumbled begrudgingly.
My mother handed the bowl back to her.
“I’ll take it,” she said as she fumbled for her wallet in the big purse she always carried. I think it was actually an antique carpetbag, like one that Mary Poppins carried; as a child, it certainly seemed as infinite. It always weighed as much as my backpack plus an extra two library and an empty lunchbox.
She pulled out an even thirty-five and handed it over.
“Can I wrap it for you?” Lynnie asked.
My mother thought a moment. She shook her head misleadingly.
“I’d like to say ‘no’ and spare you the trouble, but I’m afraid it might break otherwise.”
Lynnie grabbed a piece of bubble wrap and taped it around the bowl before reaching for the heavy beige paper to swath it in.
When she had finished, she placed the wrapped bowl in a plain paper bag and handed it over to my mother.
“Thank you.” She smiled widely. I moved closer to Lynnie, hoping my mother would let me stay at her booth.
“No, thank you. Will we see you and Emma Monday?”
My mother looked to me.
“Yes!” I exclaimed.
“She would love that,” my mother responded more diplomatically. She held her hand out for me.
“Well, we always love having her over.”
A couple women—Elizabeth Norris, who lived three doors down from us, and Nora Fitch, town busybody—crept into the area and began to browse. My mother gave your neighbors a weak nod of acknowledgment.
“We don’t want to keep you from your customers. We’ll see you Monday.” She excused us. My mother grabbed my hand, ushering me away.
“Yes, see you then.” Lynnie waved. My mother kept walking, but I eagerly returned the gesture.
Lynnie turned her attention to those who had just arrived. Mom and I ambled—and tromped, respectively—up and down the line of booths. The city women strolled a bit in front of us, huddled together, gossiping.