The horns honked every Saturday, sometimes driving around the block right by my house. Wedding couples waved from the back seat, with streamers and tin cans sailing in their wake.
The church stood at the entrance of our neighborhood, as much a playground for us children as it was a place of worship. Baptisms, funerals, and all forms of life events in between took place beneath its roof. And on Saturdays, the expected cachaphony of honking horns was as common as the chirping of birds.
Many wedding traditions have their roots in superstition, and the making of noise is one of them. It was thought that the loud clanging of cans trailing behind a carriage and even church bells would scare evil spirits away from the newlyweds. Eventually, the practice became an expression of celebration.
These days limousines are more common than tin cans hanging from the bumper, and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the honking horns. My guess is that the racket brought more evil spirits out of neighboring homes and business than it ever scared away. As for me and my chums, we laughed and waved and imagined someday riding in the back of the noisy getaway car.
Yesterday included my annual pilgrimage to the Great Minnesota Get-Together, otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair. For most, this is a venture into the exploits of gluttony; corn dogs, pork chops on sticks, buckets of chocolate chip cookies, and mini donuts washed down with all the milk you can drink for a buck. For me, it is a metaphysical event; laced with spirits from the past and traditions not yet established. Yes . . . and a temporary lapse into the exploits of gluttony.
I can sense my mother is within me when I start to hum the theme song from State Fair. It was our song on the drive from Fridley to the fairgrounds every year.
Mom actually called in sick for me at school, just so we could go together when the crowds were lower. We arrived before any attractions opened, and sometimes before the kitchens. After eating breakfast at the Pancake House, which no longer exists, we would head straight to the Creative Arts Building. If we timed it right, we would be among the first to enter. There she strategically surveyed each and every piece of handiwork on display, critiquing the judges as much as the crafters.
This year I passed up the Creative Arts Building. Experience has taught me that it no longer holds magic without the magician by my side. But I smiled at the women waiting patiently outside the unopened doors early yesterday.
I ate breakfast sausage on a stick, followed by a double latte with sugar-free vanilla. Really? Sugar free? Was that a feeble attempt or force of habit? I dipped the breakfast sausage corn dog in real, full-strength, high fructose-laden maple syrup. Nutrition is a balancing act, after all.
I only walked another block before the tears came. What set them off, I can no longer remember. But they came, and I searched for a direction to face in order to hide my sudden display of grief. This is an expected reaction, a tradition since my mother’s death; merciless in its timing, yet cleansing upon its arrival.
My kids visited the fair with my mother and I a couple times. Those years Mom always went twice, just so she could spend more time seeing the things she wanted to see. When you have children in tow, there is a different perspective of the place. Sailing down the big slide is something I hadn’t done since I was a child, and probably not again until I have grandchildren. One year we saw piglets being born. The kids and I had our own song we sang on the way to the fair.
Bubba thought about coming with me. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for going alone, but I prefer it. My favorite parts are the talks and demonstrations. Sometimes I can hardly make it from one to the next, weaving through the crowd from the Agriculture Building to the Progress Center in ten minutes flat. If someone is with me, I won’t put them through that.
I learned a lot about pollinators and rain gardens yesterday. I gained resources and education on things like systemic pesticides and edible landscaping. I logged over 20,000 steps, necessitating a half hour break in my car with my shoes off and feet out the window. I texted and Tweeted, took selfies and Instagrammed. I’m just not one to let being by myself hinder my fun.
Minnesotans throw out this much trash every 30 seconds (Eco-Experience Progress Center)
The Gopher State
Rabbit Agility in the 4-H Building
One of the things Mom used to do before we left the fair every year was to have a beer. She would say that nothing tasted better than an ice cold beer on a hot day at the fair. And so I stopped in the Beer Garden before heading out. I sat there, by all outside appearances alone, and drank to memories, to tradition, to sore feet, and to next year.