I’m researching the second book. I’m at the Minnesota State Fair searching for my past. Every year until I moved away from Minnesota I went to the fair. This time I wore my T-shirt from the last trip in 2008. On the back in ALL CAPS purple letters is this quote from Garrison Keillor:
THE STATE FAIR
IS NOT A WAY OF LIFE
IT’S A REWARD
FOR MAKING IT THROUGH
SORT OF LIKE ICE CREAM
IS A REWARD
FOR EATING YOUR BROCCOLI.
I’d forgotten I was wearing it. I jumped when someone tapped me on the shoulder. “OK if I take a picture of it?”
I turned and noticed them pointing to my shirt, “Sure.” I said as I smiled.
“Snap” part of my past was passed along.
My childhood fair was different, it wasn’t a place to spend money, it was a challenge to spend as little money as possible. For at least three years my best buddy Marie and I figured out how to get in for free. We pedaled our bikes from South East Minneapolis, up Como avenue our young calves straining as the hill became steeper right at the south entrance by the St. Paul campus. We walked our bikes up to the gate and ask for two children’s tickets. It was kids day, and kids 12 and under got in free. We braided our long hair into two pigtails, certain that would make us look really young.
“How old are you?” the ticket taker inquired.
“Twelve, ” My friend and I lied shaking our heads up and down, being careful not to smile.
He handed us our tickets, but I’m sure with our budding breast and having ridden there by ourselves he knew we were over twelve. No one asked for ID’s .
We locked our bikes against the fence inside the gate and trudged through the midway. We weren’t wasting our hard-earned 50 cents an hour baby-sitting money on rides. I watched a young couple, the girl carried a big stuffed animal that the boy had won for her. What fun it would be to have a boy do that, I thought.
In the horse barn my eyes welled up with hidden tears for lost futures. I watched girls brushing their horses wishing that Daddy had lived and we were still on the farm. That could have been me.
The dairy booth was right there by the horse barn. ALL YOU CAN DRINK FOR 10 CENTS. We stood in line and filled our first cup. Then we got out our lunches and ate what we’d brought going back to refill our cups with milk 4-5 times. It was like magic , our cups runneth over.
We walked back uphill to the grandstand. The race cars roared around the track inside, but we were on a mission inside the building. We walked up the ramp, passed numerous booths selling things, then up three flights of stairs to the FINE ART Exhibition. All the best Minnesota artists entered the Minnesota state Fair show, and Mother had gotten one of her paintings in the show. I was so proud to show my Marie Mom’s painting of the Willows hanging there. It had NFS on it, mother would not sell it, it was her memory of the farm.