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Iron-Clad

Washington County Fair, NY

I should  have been putting up the 40 pounds of tomatoes sitting on the counter or cleaning or writing or weeding or cleaning (did I mention cleaning?).  Instead, I was sitting on a courtesy cart on my way from the parking lot to the entrance of New York’s Washington County Fair.  The little imp that sits on my left shoulder is the queen of rationalization and had already come up with a couple of great excuses for the less-wayward imp that sits on my right shoulder (I don’t have any internal angels).   However, as luck would have it, our driver came up with the hum-dinger of all pretext for a day of play –  one I know I’ll use again and again.

Our main reason for going was to see the 4-H exhibits. None of us have any interest in those rides that involve leaving your stomach hovering 20 feet in the air over the rest of your body.  However, we all wanted to ride the ferris wheel – all of us, that is, except for Thing 2.  So, as we climbed onto the courtesy cart, he became the victim of an escalating ad campaign to get all of us onboard with the idea.  The lanky, slightly-older gentleman driving the cart noticed our five-year-old’s plight and took pity on him.

“Know why I don’t like ferris wheels?”  He asked.

Thing2 turned his face toward my stomach (his preferred debate technique).

The driver then told us of a draconian punishment he had endured at the age of nine and at the hands of a father he never saw again.  In somewhat vivid detail, he described how his parent pushed him from a precipice and how a hatred of heights sprang from that betrayal .  My hands moved to cover Thing2’s ears to filter out the story, but I was too slow, and I was to be happy about that by the end of the ride.

” I work with other kids like me,” he went on.  Before we had time to consider the courage it took to evolve from a cast-off to a champion of others caught in the cycle of neglect, he asked, “You know why I like working this job too?”  Thing2 was now listening intently, as were we all. “I like seeing people coming here enjoying their kids.  Not like the kids I work with.  Not like my parents.”  He pulled the cart to a stop in front of the ticket booth and smiled at Thing2 and at me and my husband.

Then, lightening the mood, he asked Thing2, “Know how cows have fun?”  Thing2 shook his head, no.  He grinned at all of us as we stepped out of the cart.  “They go to the moo-vies.”

We groaned and the kids laughed and we waved good-bye as we trotted up to the ticket booth.  Gone from my mind were the tomatoes and housework and writing and all the excuses I thought I needed to be here.  In the end, the only – the iron-clad – excuse that we needed or will ever need was that we wanted to enjoy our kids while we’re lucky enough to be able to do so.