One evening, as Joe and I lay in bed, ready for lights-out, my 14-year-old daughter burst into the room and began a maniacal monologue about what a great time she had at the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo. She was speaking at a speed that lead us to believe she had just consumed several cans of Mountain Dew. I am gifted, so I was able to keep up. Joe’s eyes glazed over around the 5th, “Oh-my-gosh-like-it-was-the-best-ride-ever-and-we-rode-it-three-times.”
Joe kindly asked that we finish the conversation in another room.
Something about needing sleep.
When Hannah and Olivia were two and five, Joe and I began taking the girls to the fair. At that age, they were enchanted by the petting zoo. By no means had they been sheltered from the sweet aroma of farm critters and animal poo. Their aunt and uncle had horses, chickens and goats—their grandfather had cattle, a couple of horses and three donkeys. (He named his first donkey J-Lo because she had a big butt!) So something must have been different about the baby animals at the petting zoo. Maybe it was the sawdust on the floor, the $1 Dixie cup full of feed or the sweet nudge of a baby llama.
I remember the heat, the crowd, the smell, and the annoying mom trying to get the perfect photo of her kid holding a bunny. There were signs posted requesting patrons not hold the bunnies—so you can imagine how clever and covert this mom was! I don’t blame her. I have a petting-zoo-approved Polaroid of Olivia holding a piglet that cost an astronomical $5.
Animal slobber is not on my list of favorite things and the necessity of two gallon-sized jugs of hand sanitizer did not make it seem any more, well, sanitary. I always looked forward to moving on to the next activity on the agenda.
The kiddie rides had magical appeal and it did not take long to learn the wristband was the most economical way to go. For $15, they could ride all day. First it was the little purple barrels, the friendly caterpillar roller coaster and a favorite for future NASCAR enthusiasts—the miniature automobiles that circled the round course at a breakneck speed of 1 mile per hour.
Tilt and Hurl
I think Hannah was in 5th grade the first time she tried the Tilt-a-Whirl. Olivia cautiously sat it out. As soon as the ride was over, a passenger threw up. I thought that would discourage the girls from trying anything other than repetitively running through the fun house. I was wrong.
As the girls got older, the rides got bigger. The last time we took the kids to the carnival, they each brought a friend. Hannah was 13 and wanted to stay as far away from the ‘rents as possible, so we hung out with Olivia and her girlfriend. At the end of the day, sunburned and sticky from cotton candy and funnel cake, we headed home.
Back to the Future
Fast forward 4 years and Olivia continues her detailed review of the day’s activities—spent without us. My mind continued to meander through the past—then snapped back to reality when I heard, “… and-we-met-the-cutest-guys-and-hung-out-with-them-the-rest-of-the-day!”
Zooming past goat feed, hand sanitizer and that precious caterpillar ride, the carnival had transitioned from a family activity to a place to meet boys. Good thing Joe was asleep.
And there was a consolation. At one of the craft booths, Olivia had bought a red bow for her hair. A sign that she is still my little girl. For now.