The morning after we’d been to the county fair, I asked Tom if he’d had fun. In a rather endearing way, he mustered all of the enthusiasm he could, and after an almost imperceptible pause he replied, “Oh, yes.” I laughed and told him that I appreciated the attempted brave front, but that I could tell he was just trying to be nice. He summoned a cheery tone and replied, “Well, the turkey legs were really good.”
I get why the fair is not for everyone. Truth be told, most adults, particularly the type who won’t sleep away from home unless there is 24-hour room service, see the fair as simply a traffic problem at a couple of freeway exits for a couple of weeks each year. I am that type, and I would otherwise agree. But some of those same adults are parents of school-aged children, and that creates in us a conflict. School-aged children’s teachers submit their students’ art projects to be judged and displayed at the fair. Parents of school-aged children must show their support by going to the fair to ooh and aah over said art project, despite said parent having already oohed and aahed over said art project at Open House. Of course, not to be missed is the photo op in front of the art project, which now has a blue ribbon on it. In addition, young kids who participate in dance classes, gymnastics programs, and martial arts studios do performance exhibitions at the fair, creating still another reason that otherwise sane adults can be found there. This was my “excuse” the two years prior to this.
So, although we went to the fair this year, as we have done in years past, for the sake of the kids, I still had fun, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Well, maybe I’m a little ashamed, but I’m still admitting it. I think in large part this year’s fair was rather jolly because we went with a crowd of fun and like-minded folk. This year we joined Laura’s buddies Matthew and Jonathan (accompanied by their mom, Nancy), Jackie and her little sister Laura (accompanied by their mom, Roxanne), and Henry (accompanied by his mum, Trish). Tom joined us after a half-day at work, and only had to take two business calls during. Courtney joined us after work, ate dinner, looked at Laura’s art project, and called it a day. I speculated that having six kids, three boys and three girls, ranging in age from four to seven, might be a recipe for a high-stress day filled with whining (mostly from me) and disagreements about what to do next. Yet despite a brief negotiation followed by a short pout over who’d ride with Henry next, the kids got along famously. In fact, a new romance blossomed at the fair. More on that later . . .
We found out this year that there are many amusements at the fair, not all of them being the traditional ones provided by the fair itself. While our children pursued the noble obligation to go on as many rides as possible between the hours of 11 AM and 8 PM with their one-price wristbands, we moms and dad found ways to amuse ourselves. Sure, we had funnel cake, sure we had kettle corn, and sure we even rested our tummies in between for the sole purpose of preparing them for more junk food. But this savvy group of moms all knew where to find the bar in the kiddie zone, so we had wine and beer. Of course, the only redeeming thing that could be said for the wine and beer offered at the kiddie zone bar was that it contained alcohol, but that was good enough for us. In fact, Tom opted for the “Premium Beer,” Killian’s Irish Red, which he pronounced was Coors with Red Dye #7 added. (Killian’s Red is a Coors label, but I doubt they’d cop to the Red Dye #7 additive.) The wine came in tiny little bottles (which Tom said needed bendable straws) and tasted like Kool-Aid, but laced with booze, so it was good enough for me. Laura came to investigate what I was drinking, and peered closely at the label on my tiny little bottle. “Chardonnay,” she read aloud. After that, Tom and I felt much better about spending what we did on her Kindergarten tuition.
At some point during the day, Nancy gave birth to a set of new colloquial terms. The word “fair,” as in county fair, formerly a noun, became an adjective. She told one of her children to keep his “fair hands” out of his mouth. And they were fair hands. All the kids had fair hands. Fair hands first get sticky from eating treats and then pick up every imaginable germ from touching every ride that every other kid at the fair touched with his or her fair hands. Later, Trish, who was wearing sandals, pronounced that she had fair feet. After funnel cake, fire-roasted artichokes, hot dogs, candy apples, kettle corn, and cheap wine, we got fair teeth. And at the end of the day I was convinced that we all got fair lungs from the second-hand smoke, and fair heart from all of the trans fat we consumed.
One of the attractions at a county fair is people watching. Trish was particularly adept out pointing out some of the kookiest looking men, and Roxanne spotted perhaps the second-most beautiful man at the fair (Tom being the first). At some point the idea was born that we ought to surreptitiously photograph these men. I think the idea came when we saw a man who looked to be in his late 50s, wearing a long grey beard, a camouflage hat, a T-shirt bearing the slogan “One Nation, Under God,” and carrying a rather realistic-looking plastic assault rifle. He was someone you would only see at the county fair, or voluntarily guarding our border. My idea was to wait until a child walked by, and pretend that child was mine and get him in the photograph. Trish, with her saucy haircut and cute denim skirt, walked right up to him and asked if she could take his picture. Nancy and I were seriously considering abandoning our children, who were waiting in a nearby line, so that we could take cover someplace safe, maybe in a recycle bin or under a ride. Trish was back in a moment and reported that the man had asked her why she wanted his picture, and that all it took for him to strike a pose with his rifle held across his chest was for her to say, “Why wouldn’t I want a picture of you? You’re so handsome.” I’d post the picture of him, but honest to God, I’m sure the guy has real guns at home and somehow it would come back to haunt me.
Now for the love story. Laura and Matthew have been betrothed since Laura’s first year of preschool. They are two peas in a pod in many ways, and they balance each other nicely in others. One similarity is that neither one can stand to throw anything away. Nancy and I often say that by the time they are an old married couple they will have horded so much junk that social services will have to show up and intervene in their lifestyle for their own safety. One difference is that Matthew is rather shy, while Laura will talk to anyone and everyone who will listen. This could work well for them as a couple; imagine if they both wanted to do all the talking, like Laura’s parents, or neither wanted to do the talking, like Matthew’s parents. Nancy and I know the day may come when Laura and Matthew will go their separate ways romantically (while remaining lifelong friends, of course), but we look upon the future in that regard with a bit of angst truth be told, because Nancy and I get along so well. But it may not last forever, and we know that eventually we must grow to accept that. Matthew is such a sweet boy and all of the girls in his class love him. And Laura began to take a bit of shine to Henry this year, because he is a very sweet boy too. So if it the choice would be Henry, then, bonus, Trish would be her mother in law, and I could way live with that. However, the confluence of two events solidified Laura’s betrothal to Matthew. The first was that when Laura was more entranced with Matthew’s cotton candy than she was with her candy apple, Matthew offered her some. And he didn’t just give her a little piece the size that you’d find at the end of a Q-tip. No. The dude forked over generous billows of the sweet cottony stuff more appropriately called Kid Crack. And he lovingly told her that she could have as much as she wanted, and in any or all of the colors in his bag. Her eyes sparkled and she said, “Matthew, I’m not going to marry Henry. I’m going to marry you.” The second event that took Henry out of the running for Laura’s hand in marriage was that Henry and Matthew’s little brother, Jonathan, fell madly in love. Those two walked along holding hands, went on nearly every ride together, whispered to each other, put their arms around each other, gazed adoringly at each other, and remained inseparable the entire day. Henry and Jonathan are MFEO. And while it might be better if what happens at the fair stays at the fair, it might also be photographed and blogged. What I find reaffirming in the sense of my ability to choose good friends is that Trish and Nancy didn’t bat an eyelash, and in fact appeared in every sense to enjoy how much these two little guys were enjoying each other. Trish and Nancy agreed that if their boys were going to end up on Brokeback Mountain, it would be okay by them. Now if we can just keep guys like “W” out of the White House in twenty years or so, maybe it can be a double wedding.