When Life is Magic
We have a rabbit named Charlie who is in massive love with a hot pink stuffed fair prize pig. You would think their soulmate connection is where the magic lies in this story, but its how this pig came to reside in our home that’s the most magical story of all.
I hadn’t visited the fair since I was unable to make the school field trip with my youngest child London, now 14, many years ago. It was an upsetting reckoning for both of us: I had never missed a chaperoning opportunity for her older siblings, and I was grappling with the guilt of motherhood sharing space with increased professional endeavors. Nonetheless, we found a compromise: at the time, my office wasn’t far from the fairgrounds, so I would sneak away to meet her for lunch.
Without looking, I reached back to fumble for the extra pair of fair appropriate shoes I had tossed in the car to change into before dashing in for lunch. But, there were no shoes to be found. Not even a pair of flip flops. The thought of London’s big brown eyes scanning the courtyard for her missing mother and never finding me, turned me to mud—my snakeskin peep-toe pumps were going to have to do. I tip-tapped my way to the entrance gate and explained my situation to the ticketing agents about having been a chaperone for the previous eight years and press deadlines and big brown eyed children and lunch—and that I was bopping in for 20 minutes, max. After verifying my daughter’s school was onsite, the ladies behind the counter said: ten dollars, cash, since I had neglected to arrive with the school group.
I hurried in and was relieved to be met with a smile when London and I spotted one another. As I approached the large group of students and parents, one of the moms began laughing, pointing to my shoes, and said: “You came to the fair in heels?!” The other moms swiftly joined in the gawking and giggling. I smiled and turned my focus back to my sweet daughter.
Since then, I had not thought of the fair as a good fit for me, until a friend offered two comped tickets this year. I had been dreaming of capturing one of those iconic photos of legs dangling in the sunset as people spun in a giant circle from the swing ride. I put the decision on London, though. Her desire to hang out with me in public had been waning. Something about me being unpredictable, inappropriate and embarrassing like “that one time” when I “flirted with an elf” on a holiday lights cruise.
She obliged the idea—she, too, had been dreaming about a visit to the fair since her big brother, ManCub, won a giant unicorn four days prior. Although carnival games are my least favorite aspect of a fair adventure, I agreed to invest in a $20 game card. I watched as sharp darts, thrown at top speed, ever so stunningly slipped between bulging balloons. As plastic rings arched through the air and then disappointingly pinged off the tops of bottles. I watched that $20 investment break my teen’s spirit. Until she spied the basketball hoops game. “Mom, can you play that for me?” she asked. “No way,” I replied.
“But I saw that box of trophies and weren’t you a state player or something?” I explained that exactly 100 years ago in high school I had been a baller, and was an all-state player. “But I left at the top of my game,” I said. “And it’s bad luck to relive those glory days. Anyway, I need a footlong corndog in my life.”
The commotion of her begging and pleading caught the attention of Bruce, the carnival worker manning the basketball booth. What did I have to lose, he asked. It’s all in fun. You’re tall, you should try it, he urged. I agreed to throw six basketballs at a hoop if we could leave the game area forever, no matter the outcome. People began to gather after the commotion I created when I hit my fourth shot in a row. Two shots away from the BIG prize and it began to feel like a high stakes Vegas game of roulette.
I closed my eyes and sank my teeth into the first inch of my footlong corndog, hoping it was as magical a flavor experience as I remembered from my childhood. Indeed … it wasn’t. But, I felt young again and was beaming back at my beaming 14 year old as she held a BIG prize because, with much fanfare, I had made all six baskets. Strangely, though, the high only lasted for a blip in time. “Mom, can we go back and do it again?” she asked. “No way,” I replied.
But, she said, she wanted the hot pink stuffed pig now. And the game was really easy for me, so it shouldn’t be a problem for me to win again. I agreed to go back but refused to be the one to play the game. You want the pig? I asked. You earn the pig. As I nibbled my footlong corndog, she missed the first basket, made the second one and then missed the third. “Mom, palease do this for me,” she pleaded. I explained she had nothing to lose since the big prize was out of the realm of possibility now. And then Bruce interjected, again, pitching a deal that if I made the next four baskets, London could have the hot pink stuffed pig after all.
I transferred my corndog to my left hand, so I could shoot with my right hand. “Mom! You have to put your corndog down,” London said. “Yes, you should have her hold your corndog,” said Bruce. I smiled as I took a bite of the corndog and then shot the first basket. The ball bounced around the rim and fell through the net. Again, drawing the attention of a small crowd, I made the next three baskets one-handed, with my corndog in the other hand.
The sun was setting behind the giant swing ride as we left the fairgrounds, and I paused to capture a picture as I had imagined it. London stood watching, her arms wrapped around a large stuffed koala bear, and one giant stuffed hot pink pig.
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