Usually Amy was there with me. Miss Betty, the proprietor had a few pounds on that dance instructor from Fame but she all the nastiness. Moms were banned from the dance floor and she even frowned on glances through the window, though she let it slide. Usually.
This day, Amy had abandoned me. I was surrounded by some uppity new moms who I didn't know. Here's why I never got to know them. I was reading my magazine, just minding my own business when I heard a conversation in progress.
"You know, the state fair would be great if it wasn't for those (insert nose wrinkle here) ANIMALS," sniffed on blonde, coiffed woman in yoga pants.
Her friend agreed. "I KNOW! They're so smelly!"
I'm pretty sure I held my tongue. I know I did not seek their friendship. But I won't forget their conversation either.
The Indiana State Fairs covers 250 acres of prime real estate in the heart of Indianapolis. And guess what takes up at least half of that area? Animal barns and a horse racing track. (My Mainer family was aghast that there was no betting allowed but that's another story.) Right. Guess what the fair is all about? Agriculture. That means animals you pretentious freaks.
However. When TeamReed attended Opening Day of the Indiana State Fair this year, we were a party of six. And somehow the only animals we saw were those we, uh, well, ate.
In our defense, the kids were there for wristband day on the Midway where from noon to midnight you could ride all the rides you could stomach for the price of the band. And they got our money's worth, let me tell you.
We'd planned to be there until they dropped. Turned out to be only five hours, but it was a good five hours.
Their only foray outside the Midway was when we dragged them to an extreme trampoline exhibit that got rained out about a quarter of the way in. We took shelter at the 4-H building where we found a blue ribbon photo taken by my very own cousin and lots of other art. They were back to the rides when the sun broke out again. But the FlippenOut.com crew was awesome while they could jump safely.
Jeff and I were left to own devices, which meant a stroll around the entire perimeter and stops at the fair's best sausage and lemonade shake-up stands -- ably operated by Cindy and David Athey. Cindy learned the art of the perfect lemonade shake up while just a teen herself -- working a leather goods tent over on Main Street. I don't know where David picked up his sausage skills.
All I know is if you eat at the fair, you should visit the tents staffed and stocked by Hoosier farmers rather than the pretenders who work the circuit, and the only sausage or lemonade that passes your lips should come from the Atheys.
Visit the pretenders if you must for deep fried things that maybe shoudl never see oil -- they're not evil. But there's a lot to be said for eating local, and there's no better farm-to-table than at the Fair.
At one point, Jeff said, "My plan is to gain only five pounds." I dug deeper into my stash of apples, carrots and celery. I DID steal bites of most of his treats and I did have my annual real chocolate ice cream cone. But mostly I was fairly good. (Ha. See what I did there? I'm so funny.)
Anyway, we go to see some old friends, made a couple new ones and our favorite kids in the world got to risk their lives while the rides were freshly oiled and inspected. A fabulous day.
Alex even performed a minor miracle. At some point after they'd all won animals at Midway games (Bree had to spend $20 on darts for her unicorn; Ali shelled out $10 for a tiger but Alex claimed he spent only $3 for his monkey and a frog for his sister at the water gun game.) they noticed Hannah's frog had a fluff-less leg.
"You should have seen his face! He had this look like he was NOT going to take no for answer," she reported. "He marched us back there to get it replaced."
Turned out the exchange was easy. But for a little brother to impress his older, wiser, cooler sister? Priceless.
Ali has know Jenna all her life, of course. She met Breanna at six or eight weeks and Alex at 2. Hannah came along that same time-frame but it took a while for them to bond. Somehow, despite their different elementary and middle school years at separate schools, and different interests, they've managed to be as tight as they were back when they all fit well into the tent in my living room for sleepovers.
Yes, we had Alex for sleepovers with the girls. Dale, his father, was initially hesitant. I still don't know if he was more thrilled or envious that his son had a harem before he could read. With help from Karin, he came around.
We ended up with a sleepover after the fair and while they are taller, their antics and giggles and silly games are no different than those Day Nursery days. I want to bottle it. The only real difference is that Alex gets segregated at lights out time.
So I want this to go on forever. Summer is too soon over. Alex goes back to school Monday; Bree on Wednesday and Hannah on Friday. Ali still has a week and a half, so I'll get her to myself soon enough.
Sure, I've missed her as she's galivanted from Maine to Flat Rock River Camp. But I wouldn't take away this time she has with the best friends I suspect she'll ever have. And truth be told, I'll be devastated if she ever loses touch with any of them. They're more like cousins than friends.
Karin and I took them to the Jordan Y to swim while she and I worked out. On the way home, we talked about extending the sleep over and so far it's devolved into an after-dinner water gun fight. Jeff erected our super sophisticated obstacle course but it had cooled off enough that they mostly had contests to see how long they could stand being sprayed.
They're all covered in mosquito bites but no one's complaining.
Alex finished his shower first so he's been whiling away the time in the living room. He just told me that in my wedding picture I look just like Mrs. Incredible. I have always loved that boy. True, as I was driving them home from Taco Bell, he did taunt me with water noises knowing I had to pee. But he also tried to get Ali to NOT put that plastic snake on my shoulder so many years ago when I was driving them somewhere and almost killed them by colliding with the stop sign at the end of my street when I noticed the snake.
So anyway, if I could hold summer's end off and keep these kids together, I totally would.
There are 15 days of the fair left and we still have to see those the animals, afterall.