We think Laurie Stone knows what she’s talking about. No one doesn’t like a carnival! Read more from Laurie on her blog.
You know that tug. You drive by and pretend you don’t care. Your kids are grown. Why go anymore? Then you roll down the window and smell the popcorn and hear the tinny music. It takes you back. And that’s when you realize the summer carnival has seen you through 6 major life stages…
The Small Child – At 5, you were entranced by this world of sound and light. You sat on your father’s shoulders or held hands with your mom as she took you around. You had your first taste of cotton candy and sno-cones. You loved the little rides with tea cups and baby dinosaurs. You especially loved the merry-go-round.
One time your father takes you on the Ferris wheel and you’re awed and terrified as that creaky seat sways at the tippy top and you see your little town from so far up.
The Older Child – You’re parents are okay but you’d rather hang with friends. You just turned 12. Changes are happening in your body. Big changes. You go on the scarier rides even though you secretly hate them.
You gaze longingly at the merry-go-round. You remember the feel of going around and around while the music plays and the horses bob up and down. Of course, if you did it now, you’d never hear the end of it. You get in line for the Zipper with your crowd, the ride where the cars dangle upside down. The screams can be heard from here. Your palms sweat and your heart pounds.
The Teenager – You slouch around, too hip for this kid stuff. But I guess you had to come. You never know, that cute guy in Algebra II might be here. You meet up with girlfriends and stand in a circle, making fun of everyone. Once in a while, you look over your shoulder to see who might, maybe, hopefully, be looking back.
After all these years, you notice this odd tent next to the food stalls. What are all those old people doing sitting at long picnic tables with white cards and thick magic markers? A man calls out numbers and someone yells, “Bingo!” Everyone gets excited. How sad.
Parents of Young Kids – Okay, you lost a little time in your twenties. You were too busy drinking wine with friends on weekends. And let’s face it the carnival wasn’t exactly on your action list. But suddenly you’re in your thirties, married with two kids. You and your husband navigate the grounds lugging strollers, diaper bags, bottles and backpacks.
At least you get to ride on the merry-go-round again. And again. And again. In fact your two and five year olds want to ride each ride thousands of times and scarf endless ice cream and funnel cakes. They want to play every game. They cry when they don’t win the giant stuffed panda.
At one point, your five year old runs into the bingo tent. You go to retrieve him and come upon all these quiet old people, intent over white cards. How strange, you think.
Parents of High School kids – Now those boys avoid you at the carnival like you’re Patient Zero for the Ebola virus. You and your husband walk around, slightly befuddled. The rides aren’t the same without kids. You play a few games but there’s no children wanting that giant panda. You see young families and feel that whiff of nostalgia.
You meet up with other older parents, happy to have human contact. You swap war stories. Besides eating, what is there for us to do at the carnival, you ask each other? “At least we’re not in the bingo tent,” someone says. Everyone laughs.
The Bingo Tent – More years pass and you finally take your place at that long table. You hold those fat magic markers and buy tickets from the guy making the rounds. You notice some of the parents from early years, the ones who swore they’d never end up here. You give each other resigned shrugs. What can you do? Here we are.
You play and it’s not so bad. Sometimes it’s downright exciting, especially after a dinner of hot dogs and French fries. You hear the music and smell the cotton candy. You listen to the happy shouts of kids and see knots of teenagers standing outside. A little child runs into the tent, followed by a tired-looking mother. You look at each other as she scoops him up and hurries off.
You think of that time you sat way up high on that Ferris wheel with this little town spread below. Not much changes and yet everything changes.
Generations come and go. And it’s all seen here at the carnival. The wheel of life continues to spin like that merry-go-round. The air-blower pops out two more balls. “G-17!” a fireman shouts. An excited rustle goes through the crowd. “Bingo!”