Their Last Visit to Vermont

Photo by EA at

Intro: One of my first stories. It’s about taking two teenage sons on a not-so-successful trip to Vermont. I’ve included a link to the YouTube video, part of our new local storytellers’ collection. Enjoy.

My ex-husband still had a PhD, a good job with IBM,  the house, the furniture, the photographs, and the Christmas tree decorations.  I had my children most of the time (which was good), a college job that didn’t pay nearly enough, and a lease on an apartment I could scarcely afford.

My ex took my sons to the Caribbean. Then he took  them to Hawaii.

Not that I was resentful or anything….

By great good fortune, a colleague in the theater department recommended a performance by the Bread and Puppets Theater in Vermont.  I must not miss it.  Highly original. Thought-provoking and meaningful. Talented cast and choreographer.  Outdoors in a natural amphitheater.

Well, I might never afford Hawaii.  But I could afford Vermont.  We would see the performance, stay the night in St. Johnsbury, and drive back the next day. It couldn’t be that far.  On the AAA map, it was only a couple of inches, up in the right hand corner of Vermont.

Now that I use mapquest and GPS, I know that it is 203.45 miles, and it takes 3 hours and 54 minutes to drive if one maintains the speed limit and makes no stops for gas, bathroom, food, or scenic vistas.

For some reason or other, the two sons still at home seemed less than enthusiastic about the trip.  But their only question was “Can we be back in time for the Yankees game on Sunday?”  I took that for a yes.

My red Dodge Colt rattled into town just in time for the show.  We parked on grass burned brown by the summer and joined the crowd on the hillside (also known as the natural amphitheater).  We sat among hundreds of peace-loving, earnest folk  in tie-dyes, maxi skirts, sandals, long hair and beards.  I’d remembered such people from our years in Woodstock. But they had seemed younger then. Come to think of it, so had I.

The smell of marijuana wafted though the air.  Billions of grasshoppers dived into our shoes, our pant legs, our shirts, our hair.  If a young woman hadn’t strolled by topless, I doubt I’d been able to persuade my sons to stay.

The air smelled good, of grass and home-made bread. Someone told us that they always made and gave away chunks of good bread: we should get some. But we had no time. The performance was beginning.

The puppets were at least 6 or 8 feet tall, all draped in long white and black robes.  The music was unfamiliar and discordant.  No doubt I would have been profoundly affected by the beauty of it all if I’d had any clue what it meant. Something about life and death, good and evil, love and hate–black and white? My sons were looking around, probably trying to spot other naked women or hoping we’d make a quick getaway.

The next morning we dawdled  home.  If the puppet show had not quite lived up to my expectations, I was sure that the rest of Vermont, quaint and scenic, would surely wow my sons.

First, at my suggestion, we drove 30 miles or so out of our way to visit the Cabot Cheese Factory.  It was closed on Sunday mornings. Who’s to know?

I would have liked to stop at all of Vermont’s attractions: hills, rivers, cows,  horses, hand-made crafts, vegetable stands, covered bridges, maple sugar farms, flowers, museums, historic sites, antique shops, scenic lookouts, barns, and gift shops.  But my sons wanted me to make better time.  Something about the Yankees game.

We did stop at the World’s Largest Granite Quarry.  (My idea.) I thought it quite interesting. My sons were unimpressed. Back in the car, they cracked jokes. One said it reminded him of the Chevy Chase movie about a family trip to Wally World. The other quipped, “Yeah, the visit to the world’s second largest ball of twine.” Both laughed.

Something in me snapped.  I’d wanted to take them on a vacation, and I’d wanted them to have fun. So I said,

“You never want to go anywhere.  You never want to do anything.  All you ever want to do is stay home and watch baseball on television.”

Silence.  They’d been trying to be good sports (in a teenage boy sort of way), but it had not been fun.  And now I was yelling at them.

None of us spoke for many minutes.  We stopped to check directions at a small rest area.  An older couple were there before us.  In a shrill voice loud enough to carry across the parking lot, the wife was complaining,

“You never want to go anywhere.  You never want to do anything.  All you ever want to do is stay home and watch baseball on television.”

We broke up laughing. We were still laughing when we made our last stop, for good  Vermont-made ice-cream.

If the vacation was a tad disappointing, the story we would tell afterwards was terrific.


Copyright by Margaret French

Here’s the link to “Their Last Visit to Vermont” on YouTube.  (An early appearance on our public access TV.)
While you’re there, check out other stories by our local storytellers, all associated with

1 thought on “Their Last Visit to Vermont

  1. Hi Margaret, I liked reading your story and listening to the lovely YouTube telling rendition.
    Yes, our trips with our children! The stories to remember! Our desires, motivations, disappointments, and ultimate successes! I can so identify.

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