I’m Lea Wait, and, like most of us, I wear several hats. On this blog, I’m a mystery author. To others, I’m a children’s author. To my family I’m a wife, mother of four, and grandma to eight. So far as most of my family is concerned, I’m retired. After all, I don’t get up five days a week, put on a suit and heels, and carry a briefcase to a corporate office, as I did for (and this is the sad truth) 30 years.
It’s sometimes frustrating sometimes when children and grandchildren don’t understand that writing is my new job; that sometimes I have to say “no” when a deadline or schedule obligation keeps me from a family event. So when two of my grandchildren, ages 10 and 11, asked to spend 3 weeks with my artist husband and me this summer, we decided to say “Yes – but some days we’ll have to work.” We knew we couldn’t do much – if any – painting or writing while they visited, but it would be an opportunity to give Vanessa and Samamtha a glimpse of the lives we live: the daily lives of an author and artist.
So, 3 weeks ago, they flew to Maine from rural Virginia. Since then they’ve been to Pemaquid Beach, shopped for sweatshirts in Boothbay Harbor, eaten lobsters and mussels and s’mores, and watched “really old” VHS and DVD movies from my library (most from the 1980s and 90s,) just as I’m sure thousands of other children visiting grandparents in Maine have done this July. They loved visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and making ice cream and eating blueberry pancakes and staying up later than their usual bedtimes.
But Vanessa and Sam have also test-cooked recipes for popovers and cream puffs and pizza that are part of a contemporary mystery for children I’ve written that hasn’t yet sold. (They made some excellent suggestions on clarifying the instructions.) They’ve gone with me to a signing at a jail built in 1811 which is featured in FINEST KIND, one of my historical novels for young people. (“A really scary place. And gross that prisoners had to pee in buckets.”) They hung out at a signing at Maine Coast Books in Damariscotta. (“Why weren’t there lines of people here like at the jail?”)
We tucked a trip to Acadia National Park into a trip to the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor, where I spoke (along with Julia Spencer Fleming and Vicki Doudera) about writing mysteries. They sat very quietly for the 90 minute evening presentation. On our walk back to the motel we listened to a band concert on the village green and afterward, one of them, looking into a dark alley, asked, “Is that the kind of place you’d find a body?”
We went to openings at two galleries where my husband shows his art, the Stable Gallery and River Arts II in Damariscotta. We visited the Farnsworth Museum, where they chose posters for their rooms at home. (One Jamie Wyeth and one Robert Indiana: both Maine artists.)
At home, Vanessa, for the first time, asked if she could have her own copy of STOPPING TO HOME, one of my books for young people, to read, and I autographed one for her. Reading is hard for Vanessa, but she’s now up to page 74, and I’m quietly thrilled.
In our spare time I’ve also been teaching the girls to build bookcases. The results aren’t perfect, but we now have two finished, and one in progress. There are bookcases in every room of my house, and these are for our back upstairs hall, to hold an overflow of middle grade and YA novels.
As they helped me re-shelve books (alphabetically, of course) they recognized books they’d read, and books by authors they’d met, and each chose a couple of books to take home to read later. We talked about books they’d seen the movie versions of, and why the movies might be different from the books.
We read a lot of Harry Potter in the past 3 weeks, and saw several of the movies, courtesy of NetFlics.
Vanessa and Sam are flying home tomorrow, and start 5th and 6th grade next Tuesday. I’ll miss them. I hope they had a memorable Maine vacation. I also hope the next time we talk on the telephone, or see each other on Skype, that they’ll understand a little better what Grandma and Grandpa do in Maine.
No, we don’t leave home every morning to work in offices, like their Mom and Dad do.
But we have jobs, just the same.
And, much as we will miss the girls, now it’s time for us to get back to our canvases and words. Vacation’s over for us, too.
Best. vacation. ever.
They were so good at the Jesup Library presentation! It’s hard to stay quiet and attentive when three grownups are talking about boring old adult novels.
I love that one of them pointed out a dark alleyway as a place to find a body. That sounds like a future mystery writer’s imagination, all right.
They will recall it for the rest of their lives.
A wonderful twist on take your daughter to work day. What an opportunity to see a working writer and artist at work. As PJ says, they will always remember these summer days.