Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Love of Fair

“Fair” may not mean much to most people. Typically the word conjures an image of outdoor tables covered in red checkered cloth and pig-tailed kids mowing down cobs of buttered corn somewhere in the Heartland.

To me, it can only refer to the State Fair of Texas, and the love runs deep. Since I was born on October 7 in Dallas, the State Fair, my birthday and Fall’s arrival have all been intrinsically connected in my life. Even though my family moved to Louisiana when I was 3, numerous trips were made back to Dallas to see my grandparents and paternal relatives. Family traditions were started in Dallas – 7-Up floats made with Polar Bear ice cream, Mexican food at El Fenix, double birthday parties with my cousin, born exactly one year after me. And there were trips to the Fair… what I didn’t know at the time was that a long-time family tradition was being passed on to the next generation.

I have decades of memories at the Fair... salt water taffy pulling a loose tooth out, riding the original SkyWay, Fletcher’s corny dogs with MUSTARD, taking an annual picture in a Photo Booth, buying a mobile and giant paper flowers in the Embarcadero, free biscuits and pretty calendars at Food & Fiber... When I was a kid, my dad told me stories about his days spent at the State Fair, which was only blocks away from where he grew up. Yes, he was at the 1936 Centennial. I grew to love and appreciate the Fair’s Art Deco art and architecture created for that year.

But my favorite memories are the ones of bringing my kids to the Fair when they were little. There was the year that I convinced my then 3-year old eldest daughter to be a Butterfly Ballerina at the Backyard Circus, all of us watching the puppet show in the Hall of State (now in Creative Arts), the interactive exhibits at the Science Place and photos of kids on the trunk of the mastodon in front of Natural History Museum. Now it was my turn to pass along the State Fair tradition to the 5th generation.

So now, everywhere I go at the Fair – there is a memory – a building that was looking out at my dad when he was a little boy, streets that were walked by my great-grandparents in their early 20th century finery, renewed Midway rides from my youth, such as the Skyway – and a taffy stand that sells the candy that can dislodge loose teeth. Baby animals, Haunted Houses and Midway rides my kids loved.

This is the zenith of the year as far as I’m concerned… January through September is just tolerated until October arrives. If we’re lucky to get cool weather thrown in, it’s exhilarating. Football… Birthday… Fall weather… State Fair… sharing with my family, for generations to come.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"It sure is a pretty day..."

February 27 2010 – 27 years. Hard to believe. I’ve lived more years without my mom than with her. I could have not foreseen the profound changes that the direction of my life would take since then. I learned that I do not want any of my kids to feel the way I did, missing my mom for significant parts of my life. I want to stick around and be a grandmother – my kids did not meet either of their grandmothers.

Recently, my mom’s youngest and only surviving sibling discovered that she had a diary of my mom’s from when she was about 10 or 11 years old. This was surprising news to me, as I’d never seen anything from my mom’s childhood, maybe just one photo of her as a girl in a box under the bed at my grandmother’s house. Now that everyone but the one sister is gone, all I have are the recollections of one person and now, a diary.

The diary arrived a few days after my aunt told me about it. It was small and a little worn. Dated 1936. References to the Texas Centennial that was going on in Dallas. My mom and her family lived on a farm in a small town southeast of Waco in Limestone County. Anything that they heard of in Dallas must have been big news. There is record of the TCU band marching down the street (singular) of Kosse to announce the opening of the Ft. Worth Stock Show.

Interestingly, there are careful notations of births, deaths, fires and illnesses such as measles, mumps and diphtheria. Babies, friends and acquaintances succumbed to these diseases that we no longer consider a threat. Burials were made the next day after passing. Every day there were visitors to their home, either family or neighbors. There was never a day that was spent alone. Cousins, grandparents, schoolmates and friends from town would stop by. The oldest sisters still living at home would spend entire days with their mom washing clothes, shelling peas or scrubbing floors. As a young girl, my mom passed the time cutting out paper dolls or playing a game of jacks, both of which she shared with me when I was little.

Something that my mom repeated several times in her diary struck me. It was a reflection of a happy, innocent time of her life with few cares. “It sure is a pretty day.” It is particularly profound to me because when as I knew her in the last 25 years of her life, she was not so carefree and happy. Somehow it’s comforting to me that she had that sort of joy in her heart and hopefully that is what she is experiencing now… where every day for her, I hope, “it sure is a pretty day”.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On the quest for writing…

Anyone that aspires to writing may be familiar with the lulls that happen from time to time. In my case, I haven’t had any real attempts at writing since suspending efforts in 2006 while pursuing a degree. Well, it’s been a year since the degree was completed, and those months yielded no new material! I had hoped and expected to continue riding on the wave of productive momentum after school was over. So many plans – brush up on the latest and greatest graphic art software, re-do my dad’s website, make progress on a writing project…etc. I knew that all that free time from not having to do schoolwork would become a bounty of completed projects that I just didn’t have time for until then.

Reality…at about the same time I finished my degree, I also changed jobs at work. The new job was an opportunity to grow into a new type of work – and meant a steep learning curve. One year after starting the new job, I’m now starting to feel like I can get some traction on these “other” projects in my life.

I actually think that my brain has been totally overloaded – not only with the new job and all the information that has had to be assimilated…but my continued habit of trying to be super-productive in every waking minute of the day. As a result, my brain just decided to put limits on me if I didn’t. My brain acted independently of my will? Yeah, I think so… it knows best.

Anyway, I’ve been doing “research” to inspire me on the writing project and I’ve been enjoying some books. Lately the selections involve a lot of memoirs to study their style. Thought I’d pass along the reading list for your edification…if your brain allows…

Half Broke Horses,Jeannette Walls,2009
The Glass Castle,Jeannette Walls,2005
Growing Up,Russell Baker,1982
A Moveable Feast,Ernest Hemingway,1964 (about his time in Paris 1921-26)

p.s. I’m a big fan of our local library system… love to check out audiobooks when they are available… originally with that idea I had of constantly being productive, even while driving my car… now it’s a nice alternative to the noise on the radio and a fairly time-efficient way to progress through a book…

p.s.s. I’ve enjoyed the wording of Ernest Hemingway, almost a language that is vanishing… this passage ALMOST convinces me to have some oysters – it is notable that he was consuming them in Paris in the 1920s, which might have something to do with generating a lot of romance around the scenario…despite living for years in Louisiana, the consumption of scavenging bivalve creatures is super-low on my list of preferences…

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

Better than ”Downing a bunch of raw oysters chased with white wine really perked me up”, don’t you think?