Is there anything more timeless than a county fair? We’ve been to the Montgomery County Fair (http://www.mcagfair.com/) almost every August since Noah was fifteen months old and it’s always the same: climbing on the farm equipment (antique or modern), visiting and petting the animals (familiar and exotic), sampling the treats on the midway, and braving the rides.
The fair reminds me of county and state fairs I visited as a child and teen, but none more than the Lorain County Fair that Beth and visited in August 1987, a mere month into our relationship. I was twenty and she was almost twenty-one. I was utterly intoxicated with her and wondering in a despairing kind of way why on earth I had decided to spend the fall semester of my junior year abroad, in Córdoba, Spain. I came this close to scotching the whole trip, but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t because my three-and-a-half-month-stay in Spain was a good life experience. Still, it was hard to leave. And by August, Beth and I had both gotten a little melancholy. Wandering around the fair at night, with its rich smells of fried dough and its brightly colored lights and holding hands on the Ferris Wheel, we joked about running away with the fair so we’d never be separated, and we were only half joking.
But I went to Spain and I came back, and we got twenty-three years older. We picked up a house, a couple of kids and a couple of cats along the way. We still go to the fair.
Yesterday, after June’s nap, we drove out to the fairground. We arrived at 3:30 and stayed almost exactly four hours, but it seemed much shorter. The kids clambered on heavy machinery. We saw horses, sheep, goats, cows, llamas, alpacas, chickens and ducklings. June got to pet rabbits and a camel. She made the camel handlers smile when she said their animals had “monster feet” and ‘It’s not every day you see a camel.” She was just repeating something I’d said, but it sounded funnier coming out of her mouth. June rode the carousel (with me standing next to her horse because she was five inches too short to ride it alone). Both kids went on the Fun Slide over and over. I think Noah went down five times, three times with June and twice alone. Apparently it was aptly named. The ticket-taker looked at her doubtfully the first time and took her out of line to measure her. It was a thirty-six inch ride and she’s thirty-seven and a half inches. Last year she was thirty-five and a half inches and thus ineligible for almost all the rides. But this year was different. She rode the slide, the worm ride, and the little pirate boats. But the strangest thing she rode was called the Hamster Dance. It consisted of huge plastic bubbles floating in a pool of water. Riders were zipped into them and then rolled around and around as their balls floated on the water. After this spectacle was completed, Beth and Noah went to ride the Ferris Wheel and I took June on some kiddie rides and we split a slice of pizza, some cheese sticks and a lemonade.
Once we were all re-united it was just starting to get dark and the lights were coming on all over the fair. June pronounced them “beautiful” and we sat on the grass to eat funnel cakes, fried dough and a caramel apple. She stared longingly at the swings spinning through the evening sky, full of big kids and grownups, their legs kicking out, their hair flying back. The fair takes me back to the past, but I think for June, at least some of the time, it takes her to the future.