My mom asked me a couple of weeks ago if I’m ready for the baby to get here.
“I am…” I said, instinctively placing my hand to my belly.
“Has it really even sunk in yet?” she asked, guessing the direction of my thoughts.
“It HASN’T!” I exclaimed, glad to know she understood. I went on to explain to her how numb and dumb I have felt this entire year. “It’s like nothing in sinking in anymore,” I said. “And I don’t just mean the baby. I mean NOTHING. And it all feels so funny, like I’ve found myself in a story and I’m just watching it all happen with no real comprehension of what’s going on…”
And I have the perfect example to help display what I’m talking about.
We went to the fair the other day.
All of us.
Our four kids.
Our wagon and our trusty insulated food hamper.
And, most notably, ME.
At the time, almost 8 months pregnant.
Going to the FAIR.
Did you know that, with my heightened senses and a proneness to anxiety attacks, I have been mostly avoiding crowded places during this pregnancy? And I’ve tried to not put myself in situations where there is a lot of speed and a lot of traffic? And I’ve tried to stay away from venues that are very, very noisy?
Until the day we decided to go to the FAIR.
During rush hour.
In the middle of downtown Tulsa.
With all the people and all the animals and all the noise IN Tulsa.
In all honesty, I only said ‘yes’, at all, because my dad is the one who first brought it up. Even more of a homebody than I am, it is a rarity for him to want to go anywhere besides church or work or the farm; however, about once a decade, he has this inexplicable itch to go to the fair…of all places!…and though the “why” is beyond us, we wouldn’t miss going with him for anything.
For when he is at the fair, the man transforms into a totally different person. Mr. Hates Crowds, Mr. Hates Loud Restaurants, Mr. Grumbles at the Prices and Just Wants to Go Back Home and Eat my Mom’s Good Cookin’ turns into this dollar-dropping, fun-having, food-tasting phenomenon that just cracks. us. up.
What’s that? Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick? Let’s try it! Who wants a footlong corndog? Here, have two! The FERRIS WHEEL?? I’ve got to get in on that action, pronto!
It’s like landing in some sort of bizarro land, and when Mr. Gore and I accompanied him…seriously, almost a decade ago!…with our little firstborn in tow and watched in shock as he morphed into this fair-loving eccentric, we knew we’d stumbled upon something truly remarkable, something that should be observed and remembered and nurtured.
So, yeah, there really was no question about going or not.
I mean, who CARES if I’m starting to waddle and I have to take bathroom breaks every fifteen minutes? My dad’s going to the FAIR and I need to be there to watch him eat cotton candy like it’s his last day on earth!!!!
And then there’s my mom, who loves to go to places other than church or the farm, and is always up for a trip to well…anywhere! The more noise, the more people to watch, the more excitement, the more music, the better!
I wanted to go to the fair with her, too!
And then, of course, there’s that thing I already told you about where things just aren’t sinking in quite so much. I’m numb. I’m dumb. I have absolutely lost control of all the thinking and the reasoning and the logic-ing, not that I ever had much of any of those to begin with.
So, yes, from all possible sides, my reaction was just…
Sure thing! Let’s go to the fair! Thumbs UP!
Mostly because I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I AM, ANYWAY.
WHY, by the way, is my belly so big??
Where did all my normal pants go?…
Why am I going to the doctor every month and peeing in a cup?
WHAT is HAPPENING, you guys?!?!
I don’t even KNOW.
Anyhow, our kids were 100% super duper excited about this news.
Still at a young enough age where things are awesomely fresh and new, they’re mostly unspoiled about outings, and our house was completely abuzz for days leading up to our fair trip.
And I have to admit, I was a tiny bit abuzz, too. This is what happens when you’re a mom…even if something is out of your wheelhouse, even if you would rather stay home and watch British crime dramas, even if you could think of a hundred things you’d personally rather do than go to the fair…you’re happy. Because they’re happy.
Well, Fair Day arrived before we knew it, and to make the trip extra fun and memorable, we decided we should all ride together in the minivan. It felt like a real slice of Americana, loading up with all my kids and my husband and my parents to drive to the big city and see all the latest inventions from big cities like Chicag-y and Kansas City and Paree. I couldn’t WAIT to taste all the homemade pies and pickles and take a picture with a real bearded lady!
(Or…something like that…)
But it was about twenty minutes into our drive when something deep inside of me started shaking its head most vehemently about this whole adventure and saying “no…no…no…this is not a good idea…go HOME, Mrs. Gore. Go home to your chair! Go home to your silence! Go home to your air conditioning!”
But…then again…there were all those smiling faces in the seats behind me…I could see them in the rearview mirror looking like a smiling scene out of “Meet Me in St. Louis”!…and we’d already packed the kids’ sandwiches and insulated water bottles…
it was really “Fair or Bust” by this point.
And so I did what is totally normal and acceptable and run-of-the-mill in our car these days, I put my fingers in my ears, slumped down in my seat, and squeezed my eyes shut so I could pretend like we weren’t on a busy highway with a bunch of insane city people who were either desperate to get home after a long work day or were, like us, desperate to get to the fair. So they could trample us in line and shock us with their immodesty and make us remember why we only leave our house for places like Silver Dollar City and Colonial Williamsburg.
Do I sound grumpy? I do, don’t I? I’m sorry. The fair will do that to ya when you’re almost eight months pregnant.
But THEN, my friends, we saw it…
The World’s Exposition.
Or, as most folks call it, the Tulsa State Fair.
Wow. There IS something kind of magical about it, is there not? That giant ferris wheel…the carnival music…the smell of a thousand unhealthy foods??
I couldn’t help myself. I started grinning like the rest of them.
And then we got out of our van.
“What’s that noise?!” our four-year old whimpered from his wagon, his hands over his ears as he took in the distant screams of fair-goers on carnival rides.
“That’s the sound of people dying, Shep,” his big brother soberly replied.
Ah, I do so love taking my little morbid family to town.
Now, before we really get started with the night’s activities, I have to show you the man who squired us about during our evening at the fair.
Mr. Gore bought this shirt especially FOR the fair a few years ago when he was going to attend with friends, and he wears it to most ‘Merica-type gatherings. We are a patriotic family, no doubt, but this was a tongue-in-cheek purchase what with the George Washington and the gun and the eagle with laser eyes and the fire and the whatnot. It’s just a true spectacle. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t receive loads of compliments on it…
especially when he wears it to the fair.
I have no words.
For our first stop of the evening, we went straight to the animal birthing center.
Of all the things we saw and did, I think this attraction was the most amazing. There was this long row of animals who had either given birth since the fair began, or who were “due” any minute. Our kids loved seeing the fresh-out-of-the-oven farm babies with their mamas, and I used the opportunity to share lots of commiserating glances with the poor dears who were still waiting for their labor and delivery to happen, while also thanking God that I wasn’t in a pen at the fair for educational research. How embarrassing.
But look at these cute babies!!
After getting our fill of farm life and petting zoos, we exited that building and starting immediately scoping out the food.
Want to see my dad in action?
The signs boasted popcorn, cotton candy, and chocolate-covered cheesecake-on-a-stick, and we had all three of them. And this was only the first stop in what would be dozens. I realized in this moment how fortuitous it truly is to bring a big group of people to the fair, because you really can try everything, and everyone can get a taste or two of the goodness.
Shep decided right off the bat that he really likes the fair. Almost as much as Granddaddy.
This girl liked it, too.
And look at these two being darling.
Oh! Here goes Dad again…
Foot long corndogs for everybody!
And indulge me for a sec while I share a great picture of my parents. I love these two. I’ve told my mom that they both look so eternally young that it has tricked me into thinking they’re still in their fifties and that, when they die of old age, I will be totally shocked. “What happened???” I’ll ask, assuming it was a terrible tragedy. “They were 99 years old, dear,” the doctor will tell me.
And this is when things got serious.
Introducing the bacon bomb burger, this year’s #1 new food at the Tulsa State Fair.
It was good.
It was really, really good.
We all liked that burger.
See? It made us happy.
We also all shared some fries, since we were sitting there with nothin’ else to do.
And a $6 Coca-Cola with $3 refills.
The fair is evil.
So after getting our tummies a little bit full (HA!), we moved on to the things the kids had been asking about since we pulled into the parking lot.
Shep was dead-set on doing this “jumping thing”.
But he got a ten-cent medal from Oriental Trading Company for participating, so that’s good.
THE FERRIS WHEEL!!!!
But also HOW TERRIFYING!!
Let me ask you fair fans a question about fair rides…
ARE YOU INSANE?!?!
I spent most of our time in this section of the fair ducking, flinching, and feeling responsible for the lives of all you crazies who were loading up into sky-high instruments of death that had just been set up yesterday.
These feelings only intensified when my most precious loved ones were in a creaking metal basket at the top of that monstrosity of a ferris wheel.
It was at this point in our fair excursion that I felt most inclined to have one of those anxiety attacks. The walls…even though there WERE no walls…started closing in on me and the noises got noisier and the people were bumping into my pregnancy girth and the ferris wheel started growing taller and taller in my imagination and…I just had to get out of dodge.
Retreating quickly to a picnic table far away from the rides, I took deep breaths and looked down at the concrete while telling myself that my dad and my husband and my two eldest children and my dearest, darlingest four-year old were not about to crash to their untimely deaths on the concrete floor of the Tulsa State Fair.
But they were so high up in the air!!!
OH the horror!!!
Thankfully, I had one child too afraid to ride this ride.
At least I’d still have her.
Two nice ladies had asked if they could give her this blue dog thing that they had won and didn’t want, and, being so distracted and sickened by the ferris wheel, I said “Sure!”, not even giving myself time to worry if it had drugs or needles in it.
That stuffed animal was the highlight of her night!
And THAT, my friends, is why you shouldn’t ride ferris wheels.
You get free stuffed animals, and you get to live.
By the way, my mom had also chosen survival over the ferris wheel, and that brought me another bit of comfort.
Once the funerals were over, the three of us would move to Nantucket and start a new life. Nantucket probably doesn’t have fairs, and if they do, their rides probably wouldn’t break because Martha Stewart would have designed them, so…we’d be safe there. And maybe eventually happy.
Ahhh!! Look! They’re all waving at me! And they’re close to the ground again! PHEW!!
Maybe my life as I knew it could go on, after all.
And here they are! The brave (reckless) five!
I asked my firstborn (usually a landlubber, himself) how he liked it, and this was his response.
That last picture means “not a thumbs down, totally, but NOT a thumbs up.”
I’m glad at least one of that group had some sense!
And now comes my very favorite memory from our night at the fair.
While my husband rode the merry-go-round with the little ones (this was little sister’s much safer ride of choice)…
my mom said “Hey, why don’t you let me take the big kids walking around for just a little bit so they don’t have to stand here and wait?”
“That would be great!” I said, thankful they’d have a diversion.
And the next thing I heard, slicing through the thousands of fair sounds that were surrounding us, were the familiar happy shrieks of my eldest daughter when she is about-to-lose-her-mind excited.
I wheeled around in curiosity and…
this is what I saw.
I stared at my mom in disbelief.
“How did?…What did you?…Who dee what?…IS THAT A GOLDFISH???”
She flashed her most endearing shrug/smile combo and had to stop right there to put her hands on her knees and start helplessly laughing.
“I never thought she’d WIN!” she explained. “Her ping pong ball just went straight into the first cup!”
I stared at this fishy new family member, wreathed all around by the smiles and exclamations of our oldest kids, and I just tried to imagine how my husband would react to this…er…turn of events. With our two bunnies, our two dogs, and our rescue cat under his delegation, I couldn’t imagine him being thrilled to add another animal to the line-up.
Yeah, I was right.
He was initially not the happiest, and the kids knew it.
I feel like the events and emotions summed up in the following photo are a true rite of passage in the life of an American family…
“Of ALL the games?…” he laughed to my mom, “with ALL the prizes you could win…you picked the GOLDFISH game??”
She shrugged/smiled/laughed again in response.
“But it’s really okay, Papa!” our eldest daughter assured him, “the man said we could buy a bowl for him right here, and it’s only $12!!!”
“That fish isn’t even going to survive the drive HOME!” Mr. Gore informed our children.
being the major softy that he is…
and seeing the dejected looks on our children’s faces…
he quickly changed his tune…
and said, “You know what guys? It’ll be fine! We’ll make it work. This will be FUN! WE WON A GOLDFISH!!!!”
And just like that, the fair was a magical place once more.
A goldfish. You just never know what a day is going to bring, do you? After this most amazing and chortle-worthy experience, we took in a few more attractions…
enjoyed one more “ride”…
and did one last round of fooding.
You’ve got yer Dip n Dots…
You’ve got yer funnel cake parfaits…
You’ve got your…succotash?!…(Weird, right? But actually my favorite food of the night!)…
And then you’ve got ONE more corndog, for everyone to share…
the GRAND finale…
you’ve got yer deep-fried bacon-wrapped pecan pie.
I feel the same way as my daughter there.
Not because it wasn’t delicious…it was!…but because I’M FULL!!!
My stomach’s full of food, my feet are full of walkin’, my ears are full of noises, my senses are full of total overload, my heart is full of family and fair and fun, and, yes, my fish tank is very full of a FISH.
The kids named him Zac after our other pastor.
Would you BELIEVE that crazy fish has lived for a full two weeks?
Well, it WAS living…
More on that soon. Stay tuned!