Norman Rockwell was one of America’s foremost artist illustrators. He once commented on not having an idyllic life and how this affected his work. “Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be, and so I painted only the ideal aspects of it.” Rockwell’s “perfect world” was created in the paintings of small-town America that graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post Magazine for five decades. And the models for those paintings were his friends and neighbors in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, nestled up in the Berkshire Hills.
(If it sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s where I created my own idyllic farm and the setting for my ZuZu Series.)
Every year during the first weekend in December, Stockbridge honors their favorite son by hosting the Norman Rockwell Weekend. He lived there from 1953 until his death in 1978 and his studio was in the center of town overlooking Main Street. Charley and I decided to enjoy the festivities last weekend while shooting some photos for the next book in the ZuZu Series which will be a Christmas Tale.
We arrived on Friday evening and headed for the General Store where a kind woman named Theresa led us up stairs to unlock the studio where Rockwell worked from 1953-1957. I needed to get a picture from the inside looking out. Now, it’s an empty room with just a Christmas Tree set up in the window. But I could imagine Rockwell there, arranging his local models into the poses that became so familiar to Americans when I was growing up.
After taking a few more pictures inside Williams and Sons Country Store, we walked along the street, looking in store windows and stopping at the Red Lion Inn to chat with the women in the gift shop. Both of these gift shops and the ones at Tanglewood and the Botanical Garden are places which graciously have been carrying A Berkshire Tale since it was published.
Then we headed to The Garden Gables Inn. The fireplaces were roaring, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and hot coffee were out on the side board and Jayne was there at the door to greet us.
That night, we sat in front of the fireplace and made plans for the weekend.
On Saturday, our first stop would be the Berkshire Botanical Garden where there would be home-made crafts and wreaths on sale and free mimosas to sip while strolling through the market tents.
We had purchased tickets for the tours of historical houses decorated for the holidays and planned on spending Saturday afternoon soaking up a bit of local history.
Later, we would have dinner at a cozy bistro, Once Upon a Table, before attending the caroling on the porch of the Red Lion and after that, we had tickets for a concert at the Stockbridge Congregational Church. It promised to be a very old-fashioned celebration indeed!
On Sunday we would attend the morning church service and then on to Main Street to experience the town’s recreation of Rockwell’s famous painting, Home for Christmas, 1967 complete with antique cars, horse-drawn wagon rides, Roger the Jester, face painting, a high school jazz concert at St. Paul’s Church and carolers. Mr. and Mrs. Claus were scheduled to arrive by fire truck and spend time with those who wanted to whisper their Christmas dreams in Santa’s ear.
And that night, with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, Charley and I fell asleep dreaming of an old- fashioned Christmas in The Berkshire Hills. Just the type of holiday ZuZu would love – with lots of happy endings. “God bless us, everyone!”