Market mornings start early. Well let's face it - with two small kids, pretty much every morning starts early. Market days, however, have a different pace. A special energy and a forward momentum different from other days of the week.
With luck - and forethought - the car is already packed. Some days a single market setup lies neatly packed in the back of the Forester. Other days the car looks like a Tetris level, stacked floor to ceiling with enough tables, tents, boxes, bags, risers, weights and chairs for two or three locations.
Until last fall, all our market implements lived in the kids' bedroom closet. Much like submarine inhabitants, we kept every piece neatly berthed with a packing process that took both time and finesse. We finally broke down and got a storage unit, which has proved not only the best business decision we ever made, but possibly saved our marriage.
With the car fully loaded and coffee in hand, it's out the door with a wave and a kiss to the kids. Perhaps today they're with their grandparents, just in for the weekend. Perhaps one of our sitters, loaded for bear with snacks and playdates, stands waving from the stoop. Or maybe today we have only one market - too easy! - and we split the selling and childcare duties between us. Over the years, we've grown adept at managing these situations. Two markets? Two kids? No problem.
And so, laden like the Grinch before Christmas, we arrive at the fair. Maybe the streets are closed; maybe we take over a school; maybe we've entered some fancy-shmancy castle in Connecticut, open only once a year for this event. Regardless the venue, the vibe is the same - craftspeople assembling their display, chatting with market friends, always with an eye to sales.
A timeless quality surrounds these events. From the earliest days of humanity, makers gathered in the market square to sell their wares. Sure we live in the time of Amazon and Walmart, but this space could not be further from mass commerce. Maybe not everything is handmade, but everything is touched by hands. All around are creative people with products that run the gambit.
A quick hello to the neighbors, one last gulp of coffee and the building process begins. The contents of the car spill out on the sidewalk and quickly gain form. Tents and tables find their legs, boxes open to reveal cloth, wood and busts. A mirror lives here, the earring trees nestle over there. In what seems no time, order arrives out of chaos and it's time for the jewelry to say hi.
We think about color often. How blues contrast with red. Where yellow should live? Which mat should we reserve for turquoise? An element of design goes into each and every market setup. The basics remain the same - so many boxes, so many busts - but the combinations continually shift.
Finally set, our backstage littered with gift bags and business cards, we turn our eyes to the growing crowd. What will the day hold? Whose eyes will fall on our booth and who will walk away smiling?
On the best days, the table is crowded with women bedecked in jewels, joyfully displaying their finding for one another. A carnival atmosphere pervades and everyone smiles and nods when a particularly stunning combination makes an appearance. No doubt I'm chatting with everyone - the drop of Irish blood bringing the gift of gab to the fore. On those best of days, the time passes as a stream of constant movement, never a moment's rest.
Then suddenly the day is done and shadows begin to spread. The crowd thins as the organizers give the word to break it down. With luck, all the vendors are smiling, congratulating each other and themselves on a day well spent.
An hour later we're back in the car, hoping to reach home for a quick snuggle before bedtime. Maybe tonight we'll have sushi, and tomorrow we'll begin again.