The State Fair is in town this week and I am not going to go. Not only that, I am going to enjoy not going.
When I was little, mom and dad would take all three of my sisters and me to the Minnesota State Fair. Going to the fair meant riding the Tilt-A-Whirl and Ferris wheel and making spin art pictures that you’d take home and have no idea what to do with until 20 years later when mom tried to send them home with you and you told her to just throw them away already.
It also meant walking through the animal barns and pretending you were unaffected by the smell. Yes, I can tell the difference, by smell alone, between a cow barn and a chicken coop. My people are farm people, and to farm people the purpose of a fair is to show off farm things: the best animals, the latest machinery, the wonderful hand-made quilts and, of course, the canned and baked goods.
And it also meant that, at some point, you ended up with a caramel apple. Why? I have no idea. I don’t like them. Yet every time, I ended up holding this top-heavy thing on a stick, no idea how to bite into it without getting sticky goo all over my face, teeth sliding off the skin of the apple. You might as well try to bite into the side of a city bus — you wouldn’t make a dent in that either and yet you’d end up with nasty stuff all over your face. Of course no one ever got arrested for trying to eat a caramel apple.
And the goo spreads. To those strands of hair blowing about, sticking to the slick brown mass. Hands reaching up, brushing away, becoming hopelessly mired in sweet stickiness. Your sister bumping into you, accidentally of course, getting some of it on your arm. Multiply this by four small children and the potential for disaster in the car on the way home is almost unimaginable. What the hell were my parents thinking?
Someday I’ll have to ask my mom about it.
Trips to the fair with my own children were somewhat different. The first time we went I asked: Should we go see the animals first or go on a few rides? My husband and two kids paused in their mad dash to the midway, staring at me with horror and disbelief: Why would we go look at the animals? Since no good reason came immediately to mind, we didn’t. What a bad mother. If my children are ever plopped down, blindfolded, in the midst of a farm building and required to identify which animals inhabit said building– well, it won’t be pretty.
Then there was the year my son, too cool for the family thing, convinced us he and his buddies were old enough to go on their own. I think they were fifteen. We dropped them off, said a prayer they wouldn’t try to bite a city bus, and picked them up again after the fireworks display. When you consider the possibilities, one lost cell phone seemed a minor consequence.
A couple years later, my daughter tried the same tactic. Why do kids always remember how old their older sibling was when they got to do something? I’m sorry, but it’s different for girls. It’s not fair (no pun intended), but that’s the way it is. And somehow, I ended up being the one to go with them.
Five girls and me. At the fair. We met up with two other girls whose parents were all too willing to let me look after them, as well. One of these girls was so petite she didn’t even reach my shoulder and her mother confided to me: You really need to keep a close eye on her, she tends to wander.
So. Seven girls and me. At the fair. Stumbling over thick electrical cables, dodging around the oblivious folks who will walk straight into you if you don’t move, juggling five jackets and three purses — all of which I had tried to insist they leave in the car — two drinks, one slice of pizza and a half-eaten cone of cotton candy. Ok, so the cotton candy didn’t last more than three minutes before it hit the trash. I have a low tolerance for sticky fair food. The girls had the time of their lives, screaming their way through one brain-mashing ride after another — while I was ready to scream just standing there. Counting heads and holding stuff.
On the way home they all thanked me and said it was the best fair ever. I think the next year we decided they were old enough to go on their own.
So that’s why I’m going to really enjoy not going to the State Fair this week.
But you know, I heard they buried all the cables on the midway this year. Of course, if I went I could walk through the animal barns. And look at the quilts. And eat some sweet corn on the cob. And stand there, unburdened, under the clear night sky and watch the fireworks.
Anyone want to go with me? The forecast says sunny and cool. Perfect weather for the fair.
C’mon, let’s go. But leave the damn jacket in the car.