The first time I went to an arts festival was with my mother. She’d had a busy week at the hospital. She was one of the women who wore pink scrubs and sat behind the front desk, and she longed for some fresh air. She may not have been the one wielding the scalpel, but she dealt with her fair share of sick, angry, sad guests. And she wasn’t naïve enough to think that she needed them in order to feel beat. She’d taught me at an early age that everyone had the right to feel tired, not just those working on the front lines. So long as it didn’t make me forget to be grateful for those who did hold the scalpel, and so long as I didn’t let it keep me in bed, I could feel tired too.
The arts festival was in Burlington, Vermont. So it required more than just a drive. We got a one-night stay in a hotel by the water because Mom liked to go on morning runs and was excited by the idea of a water view.
“Nothing beats the sea breeze.” Her words were vivid even decades later.
“We can see the ocean there?” I’d asked.
“It’s on a lake so large it might as well be the sea.”
She was right: Burlington was breathtaking. I insisted on accompanying her that morning, and even as an eight-year-old it didn’t take me long to understand why a run along its coast was worthwhile. I remembered insisting that I could see Montreal; that was an argument I didn’t win. But as Mom always liked to keep her home-cooked desserts a little French-inspired, I longed to see anything even remotely similar to the City of Light.
The arts festival, rather than basking in the makeshift sea breeze, took advantage of the historic downtown, brick-laced streets hugged by shops and trees. I could smell the delicacies from Lake Champlain Chocolates the moment we arrived at the festival and developed a personal agenda to see what they had to offer. But other than the sea breeze, the brick-laced streets, and the smell of chocolate, what stuck with me most from the trip was the woman selling the hand-pressed flowers in little intricately patterned golden frames.