How many years has it been? Twenty-five, no, thirty! I’ve been going to the Down Home Agricultural County Fair since I was seven or eight, and now it’s canceled. Sure, there are other fairs, I suppose – other fairs that are not the Down Home!
I had my first kiss underneath the bleachers next to where Frank’s Fabulous Pigs raced. I had turned thirteen the previous September, and Jimmy Reynolds, my friend and secret crush since third grade, grabbed a hold of my hand and pulled me under the bleachers. At first I thought we were just going where we shouldn’t be, maybe to look for lost money, him beaming that ten-megawatt smile at me, and me awaiting further instruction, when he leaned in and kissed me. My heart pounded and my hands were instantly sweaty as I kissed him back, and we stood there until the sound of feet stomping above us broke the spell.
We held hands the rest of the night, and although it was usually hard to shut me up, I couldn’t think of a thing to say – and neither could he. We just kept riding the rides, playing the carnival games, and sharing fried dough, and a fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Jimmy moved to Florida at the end of the summer, and we wrote letters back and forth for a while, promising to visit, which we never managed, and after a year went by the letters slowed, and by the next summer, I stopped hoping for a response to my last few letters.
The Down Home County Agricultural Fair was a near guarantee to see everyone I knew – and the chance to eat my fill of french fries with vinegar, fried dough, and over-priced lemonade, that I enjoyed watching the vendor make for me. “You like it sweet or tart, honey?” Sweet for me, tart for Jimmy.
Time wore on, and every year the events that attracted me changed from thrill rides to animal shows, and after my son was born I went with friends who had children, and we’d meet year after year, first riding with our children on the kiddie rides, our knees scrunched up, or wider hips not quite fitting into the tot-sized cars, and when they were big enough, putting our children on the kiddie rides alone, and watching with happy trepidation as they thrilled or freaked-out, and when they were older, bidding them farewell with instructions to meet later by the front gate, and having them pretend they didn’t see us whenever they’d pass by.
With my son in college, and friends scattered around, I went to the Down Home by myself last year, and spent most of my time looking at prize-winning quilts, home-made clothing, garden and preserve entrants’ displays, and shook my head at the carnies luring game players to win prizes not worth the two dollars to play one game. Back in my day, I find myself thinking, it was a quarter, and the prizes were bigger, and better quality too. I might as well start yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. I catch myself and laugh, I don’t want to be in the ‘old coot’ category – not now, not ever.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.