Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Day at the Fair

It felt exactly like the stomach flu. But in all reality, it was probably never the flu. Misdiagnosed incorrectly by a nurse over the phone. In reality, it's just really, insanely bad allergies and drainage. Let's just leave it at that, shall we? My doctor said it explains all my symptoms...and she handed me nasal spray and directions to buy claritin asap. It is no exaggeration to say that I now HATE ragweed.

So I was fuming about this yesterday afternoon, because although slowing down can be therapeutic, I lost a whole week of school and life, for crying out loud. I lost five pounds and have grown increasingly weak when I could have taken a claritin?? Enough said.

Anyhoo, I didn't sleep all that well last night, for the sixth night in a row. Drainage isn't completely gone yet. But when I woke up, I felt well enough to seize the day. Get out of the house and experience sunshine and companionship again. It was a welcome relief.

So the husband and I went to my nephews' 9 am football game--the 13 year old and the 11 year old played back to back. And although I've never been a football fan, it was pure bliss to be seated next to my husband and my niece, my sister-in-law's mom and my brother-in-law. I even ate popcorn!

I really do need to get out more! While I was sitting there, my sister-in-law's mom started talking about how the Grabill fair is going on, and all the crafts and merriment, and my 14-year-old niece asked if I had ever been. "You've never been?" she said. "Seriously?" "I know, it's shocking, isn't it?" I replied.

And then we went to the Grabill, Indiana, fair, David and I. And it restored my faith in certain segments of Americana, friends. When we first entered the town, there were more Amish buggies than cars, and I love to watch the Amish tooling down the road, capable and content. We saw some Amish at the fair, too, three girls in fact. They were about 14 or 15 years of age, all three of them dressed in the standard long sleeve dresses with hems below the knees, utilitarian black lace-ups, and bonnets. Except one of them was talking animatedly on her purple cell phone. Where was my camera?

[Side note: many amish are allowed to have cells because they are not considered "links to the outside world"--that is a landline does not go out from their home to the outside world. See this story for more notes on Ohio amish culture.]

Then I saw another interesting site. A young woman dressed in some sort of costume, probably to reflect the colonial era, was sitting behind a tent with her pack of pall-malls next to her, puffing on her cigarette. And the combo of the hat and the nicotine just made me shake my head in wonder.

But the sweet parts of this fall fair mostly fall in a road of antiques and quaint shops that are all connected, and the old Souder general store, that is full of all sweetness and candy and things like that. There was a guy standing in an old-fashioned cart filled with barrels of old-fashioned soda. And the husband got a root beer for $2. It was fun to look at all of it, but when we really got down the lane into the thick of the people, it was as overstimulating as it was beautiful.

We ran into some friends from church whose four-year-old son had this great shirt on that said something like: "Sorry, ladies--my mom says I can't date." And when I read it out loud he started laughing, which put a smile on all our faces.

It wasn't long before I started to tire and we had to leave. But I was so thankful for our moments in the sun, beside the rest of the hardworking hoosiers, and I felt connected to something bigger. Something that isn't made up of all smoke and mirrors, corporate greed, or the 24-hour Crisis News Network.

I stepped back from it all and realized small towns are still thriving in pockets and places where wood furniture is handmade by calloused hands connected to men who wear broad-brimmed hats and drive buggies. Where the town hardware store is the busiest spot around. And people are friendly because they want to be, not to sell you something.

Quite possibly, next year I will find a bench just on the outskirts and watch people the whole day. To remind myself how important flesh-and-blood community is in the era of twitter, blogging, and instant online transactions.

And that is reason enough to make the Grabill, Indiana fair an annual tradition.

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