Returning Home With Different Eyes

-3Returned to my hometown tonight to take my kids to the annual Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department Carnival.

As a boy, growing up on the mean streets, this was a seminal event. The fair was everything to a kid being raised in a somewhat dull town. The lights were bright, the rides were fast, the food was fried, then re-fried, and the girls were usually dressed in all their midriff-exposed splendor. I vividly recall being dropped off at the fair, 10 bucks in my pocket, meeting up with Gary and Dennis and Jon and Scott, jumping from ride to ride, feeling as if I’d ventured into some exotic, far-off world. Mahopac was a safe town, so my folks would simply open the car door and say, “We’ll meet you at 10 o’clock.” Then—off. Freedom.

I remember so many things from my fair days. There was the time Gary got stuck on the one scary ride—the looping coaster. There was the time Melissa Fiore, one of my countless crushes, said, “Hi Jeff,” as she walked past (Holy shit—she knows my name!!!). There was the perfecting of the cool strut, walking past classmates and uttering, “Whats’ up?” without stopping. There were candied applies and cans of Coca-Cola and pretzels and … and …

The fair was larger than life.

Anyhow, pulled up tonight, paid $20 for 24 tickets. I looked around and saw scattered crap rides, scattered gross games, a bunch of grungy, dirty carnies in dark shirts. The fair looked to be remarkably small; almost as if they’d taken the event of my youth and run it through the drying machine one too many times.

-8And then …

“Dad!”

“Dad!”

“Can we go on the swings!”

“Can we go on the Superman ride”

“Can we play games!”

My kids—ages 9 and 6—were in bliss. They loved the lights and the sounds and the smells and the movements and the opportunities. Everything was XXXXL through their eyes; everything was magical and splendid and perfect.

We were looking at the exact same objects.

Only their view was through the glasses I’d put away long ago.

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