We went to the county fair this weekend because now that we’re living in the middle of nowhere, we do shit like that. That’s sort of the point of living in the middle of nowhere, come to think of it.
First we took a hayride. For some reason – perhaps because I was raised in sterile suburbs – I always pictured the hayride as an event that involved a horse. Unfortunately, every hayride I encounter seems to consist of breathing in tractor exhaust while bits of straw poke into my thighs.
Whatever. The kids loved it. Plus, I gave them peaches to eat on it.
“I think if you live in New Jersey and you’re taking a hayride in July, you sort of need to eat peaches,” I said.
“Why?” asked one of my progeny.
“Because New Jersey is famous for peaches.”
“I thought that was Georgia,” mumbled my husband.
“No, silly. Georgia has peanuts,” four-year-old Benjamin corrected. Clearly, the ten bucks I spent on the U.S. States map is money well-spent.
We split up for the next event. The boys are old enough that fire trucks no longer amuse them, so I took Lilah to sit in the fire truck while J took the boys to the hay maze.
If I may interrupt myself here for a moment, I’d like to comment that I love that I have a toddler who insists on wearing a “dess,” is obsessed with trains, and wants to be a firefighter when she grows up. My daughter rocks. I’m just sayin’.
We met back up with the gentlemen over by the baby chick station. Benjamin was already inside, sitting cross-legged and holding a little chick. I was a bit concerned he’d pull a Lennie, but he was holding it very gently. Erring on the side of caution, I held Lilah’s for her while she stroked it with a finger.
Zachary, ever my animal husbandrist, freaked out the minute J put the chick in his hands and quickly exited to the hay maze, where he ran around with the kid he had met 3 minutes before and was now best friends with, even though they didn’t know each other’s names.
Lilah willingly put the chick back after a few minutes and we went out to look at the ducks. J convinced Benjamin to put his chick back, too, but the minute they stepped out of the cage, he got this pathetically mournful look on his face and we let him go back in for another chick-fondling session.
“Chick-fondling session.” That’s gonna mean something very different in a few years, isn’t it?
When he finally came out, he made a beeline for the baby calves, where he sat for five minutes stroking the white and brown one through the fence. I was starting to worry we’d never get the hell out of that tent. Fortunately, there were no more baby animals to be found, so after grossing Mommy out in the slimy snake section, we moved on to the small animal tent.
I was all for the cute little bunnies and the hamsters and even the chickens. But, folks, I gotta tell you, I could have done without my son stroking a rat. For a very long time. On two separate occasions.
When we finally got Dr. Doolittle’s hands cleaned, it was time for the children’s watermelon-eating contest. Now, my oldest son survives on air and water, and my youngest child takes her time eating, but Benjamin, oh Benjamin. My middle child is made for the competitive-eating circuit.
We’re trying to train him up for the Nathan’s hotdog eating contest. There just aren’t enough Jewish hotdog-eating champions.
The teenagers who ran the contest were joking about whether any of our kids would win. After all, there were some pretty big kids there. “Look,” I said, “he’s a ringer.”
Now, Benjamin did not win. However, he sat there, poised to grab his melon the minute the contest started. And he went at it like a champion. Say what you will about my kid – he has heart. He was absolutely determined to win, and he stayed focused on the task at hand. When he stuffed too much in his mouth, he refused to spit it out because – damn it all – he was gonna win fair and square.
He managed to eat four pieces in the time the teenager next to him finished seven. A teenager three times his weight. I had to convince him that he had won for the four-year-olds or he would have eaten the entire seven pieces, which means he most likely would have thrown up the entire seven pieces.
Kobayashi better watch his ass, is all I’m sayin’.
By this point, Benjamin’s clothes were completely covered in watermelon. I had stripped Lilah to her diaper, which was a good call, because she was also sticky from head to foot.
We’re going back to the county fair next year. But next time, we’re starting Benjamin’s training in March.
And we’re avoiding the rats.