Amherst: The Extension

Uncategorized May 13, 2013

I took a break Sunday to visit my son in N.H. and catch up on his rapidly changing life as he prepares to head off to film school in August.  It’s exciting to see him blossom and feel his independence. That’s our goal as parents, right?  “If you love someone, set them free,” Sting sings.

My own freedom has come via the road, leaving behind the safety of the women’s memorial.  This was another leap but as I wrote in the last blog, the reaction from the library staff has been wonderful. Today officially I’ve signed on to stay in Amherst for the entire summer.  And with the rare offer of monetary compensation.  My landlady told me this morning she knew of the extension before I did.  Life in a small town.

It happens to be the town I grew up in.  It’s also a town I recognize like I now recognize faces of some of the classmates I knew forty years ago:  different, but familiar.   I hear through these people of changes to themselves and others, names jarred from my memory, some with sad endings.  One person can’t invite me to his house because his wife is a hoarder.  I asked of the senior in high school who gave me guitar lessons as a seventh grader,  a guy who exemplified cool.  I was told he became a successful lawyer (for just causes) but now lives in the clutches of MS.  When I think of how smoothly he played that Gibson guitar, making it ring with perfection, I’m saddened by the thought that he’s only got the memories of his talent.  I want to see Alan.

I’m old enough that our class yearbooks were printed in black and white.  I see photographs in friends’ houses of their parents and early childhood, all in black and white.   I find myself staring at these images imagining them in color.  I want to paint them all though it’s not possible.  But I’m feeling the connection as I have for the WW II photographs.   A gift was handed to me today: the time to reconnect with Amherst.

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For over three decades my profession was as an author and illustrator of children's books. Firefighters A to Z (McElderry Books/S&S) was chosen as a "Best Book" by the NY Times (2000). Over 100 titles are attached to my name. In 2011 my life changed the moment I saw a photo of a WW II fighter pilot. Nineteen year old Griffin Holland, P-47 pilot stood erect on the wheel of his plane, staring off into the distance, cocky as all get out. The need to paint that photo and Griff's tearful reaction to it as an 88 year old man set this journey in motion.

Comment 1

  1. Deborah Tymkowiche says on May 13, 2013

    Great news Chris~ Staying in Amherst will be great, a summer adventure in your very own hometown. I will make it up there soon, with mom, I told her about you and she is interested in seeing your work. Take care and congrats! Deb

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