Maybe it’s the heat.
Maybe it’s the long hours of summer work.
Maybe it’s the repetitive pleas of small people peering up at their parents’ faces in hope.
Whatever the reason, every year at this time the vast majority of the people in the country have a temporary bout of insanity which causes them to take their children to the county fair.
As with most cases of insanity, the afflicted people don’t recognize the lunacy until it’s too late. Such was the case last week when I set off for the county fair with my four children in tow. When we arrived at the fair, we were surrounded by parents who were similarly afflicted with insanity. They were happily paying exorbitant amounts of money for cups of lemonade and food fried in grease. They were walking through rows of livestock that they have seen hundreds of times in their own barns, and they were waiting patiently for their kids to pet the babies in the petting zoo with hands sticky from ice cream.
Then they shelled out even more outrageous sums of money so their children could be flung up into the air on machinery that had been hastily assembled the night before by people of questionable backgrounds. They grinned and snapped pictures as their babies were buckled into seats of toy cars that went round and round, and they thought it was cute when the toddlers found the horn and honked it incessantly for the entire ride.
They waited in long lines so their kids could go on the roller coaster just one more time and thought it was worth it to see the look of wild excitement on their faces as they raced past, arms flailing in the air.
These are all people like me who usually spend a good deal of time making sure that their offspring are clean, fed nourishing meals, and protected from danger. The irony that we would then cart them off to a place to induce sugar highs and send them off to be flung through the air was striking; the fact that we, who are used to being frugal, would pay for the privilege of this experience was even more ironic.
Yet here we all were, carting filthy, exhausted children and empty wallets down the midway toward the parking lot. And, of course, we all stopped to buy a gigantic bag of cotton candy before we went home.
However absurd it sounds, I never questioned why we would engage in such uncharacteristic behavior. It’s one of those things you just naturally sign up for when you have children. You will drive 15 miles to bring them the show and tell project they left at home. You will endure countless sporting events during which they play for 15 seconds at the end of the game. You will pay year after year for the school pictures in which their eyes are crossed, their hair is sticking out, or their shirt is stained with ketchup.
The county fair is a tradition, and no matter how strange it may seem, it teaches the kids a valuable lesson. Tradition is a strong force that holds our families together through the generations. Without it, our farming and ranching communities would cease to exist.
Can all that be taught over an excursion to the fair? Probably not, but someday they will make the connection.
In the meantime, they had a day of cousin fun that won't soon be forgotten.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Maybe it’s the heat.