Fried food, fun at the fair

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

Smell that? It’s the heady mix­ture of fun­nel cake, straw and caramel corn . . . with, per­haps, the sub­tle un­der­tone of an an­i­mal barn. It’s un­mis­tak­able — and un­mis­tak­ably fall. It’s time for the fair! This week­end (Sept. 15-18) marks the re­turn of the Charles County Fair, fol­lowed by the St. Mary’s County Fair (Sept. 22-25) and Calvert County Fair (Sept. 28-Oct. 2). Wher­ever you call home, it’s sure to be a good time.

Our county event at the La Plata fair­grounds is an an­nual tra­di­tion as com­fort­ing as an old patch­work quilt. I love it for many rea­sons, not the least of which is the chance to run into peo­ple I haven’t seen in ages — for­mer class­mates, co­work­ers, teach­ers — while spend­ing a day in the com­mu­nity. It’s tough to go a few feet with­out spot­ting some­one you know.

It’s also one of the rare times I see ex­tended fam­i­lies to­gether — all united in their com­mon goal to de­feat one another in car­ni­val games. Win­ners get to cart home an ad­di­tional pas­sen­ger: a gi­ant stuffed go­rilla, car­ried back in a vic­tory lap to the fam­ily car.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, my fair ex­pe­ri­ence is usu­ally all about the food. I tried an ar­ray of fried stuff years back — thick in the mid­dle of my weight-loss days, iron­i­cally — and have had a hard time for­get­ting about fried Oreos since. They’re not some­thing I eat daily, of course . . . mostly be­cause I can’t find them. If I could, I doubt I’d ever touch a green bean again. (Just kid­ding. Sort of.)

Go­ing to the fair has taken on a new di­men­sion as a par­ent. Though our son isn’t ready to en­joy car­ni­val rides just yet, we’re ex­cited to take him back this year — his sec­ond fair — to mar­vel at all the an­i­mals and flash­ing lights.

Like many tod­dlers, Oliver is cu­ri­ous and strong-willed. He has plenty of opin­ions and has fig­ured out “nooooo” — com­plete with a shake of the head — in re­sponse to most sug­ges­tions, in­clud­ing but not limited to eat­ing his Nutri­grain bar or de­tach­ing him­self from the baby­gate which blocks him from a tempt­ing flight of stairs.

An Ol­lie wants to do what an Ol­lie wants to do. Un­for­tu­nately, his de­sires don’t al­ways align with ours.

He’s now re­belling against the stroller. It’s not the stroller’s fault — it’s just that it has re­straints that . . . well, that ac­tu­ally re­strain him. He likes to play with the buck­les and straps, but not if they’re phys­i­cally strap­ping him in. Ol­lie doesn’t want to be con­tained.

At al­most a year and a half old, this is a new phe­nom­e­non. Oliver’s mo­tor skills sharp­ened a bit later than other kids his age, so he was per­fectly con­tent to be plopped down in carts or car seats and just hang out while we ran around. He was rolling, but just barely; he was sit­ting up, but not quite in­de­pen­dently. So he stayed where we put him. It was mar­velous. Friends and fam­ily warned us that when Oliver started to re­ally move, we might look back long­ingly on the days when he wouldn’t wres­tle to get out of his high chair. And they were right. As a new par­ent, I was bogged down with worry that he was “be­hind” — but I’ve since re­leased so much of that un­nec­es­sary fret­ting, ac­cept­ing that all things come in time.

Oliver is dan­ger­ously close to walk­ing — and a lit­tle dan­ger­ous in gen­eral. He rolls, kicks, pulls to stand, som­er­saults and gen­er­ally pro­pels him­self through life like an as­pir­ing gym­nast. I of­ten look over to find him with feet planted and head on the floor, at­tempt­ing a head­stand. He gets pretty close.

So Ol­lie is un­re­strained. His day­care provider re­ported she has no trou­ble get­ting him to hang in a pack-and-play, which shocked me. He will never tol­er­ate be­ing in a playpen at home. I asked for her se­cret — and there isn’t one, I guess. We let Ol­lie roam free at home, ba­si­cally bound­ary-less, but she does not.

And now? Now we’ve cre­ated an adorable, in­de­pen­dent, quick-mov­ing mon­ster.

A day at the fair sounds idyl­lic to me, but I know our wrestler-in-train­ing is go­ing to be schem­ing ways to es­cape his stroller. As soon as he gets a look at the chick­ens, games or Fer­ris wheel, Oliver will be in­tent on get­ting closer. He’ll point, then shout, then squirm to get out of the stroller and ul­ti­mately out of my arms un­til I’m sweat­ing with the ef­fort to con­tain him — and prob­a­bly at­tract­ing an au­di­ence. That’s where his fa­ther steps in.

But no shenani­gans will dampen our fun. I’m sure we’ll spend the af­ter­noon point­ing out ev­ery trac­tor, face painter and merry-go-round for Ol­lie’s en­ter­tain­ment.

And ours. Watch­ing my son take in the world is one of my fa­vorite pas­times.

Best en­joyed with fun­nel cake and fried Oreos, of course.

Oliver with a prize his dad won him at last year’s Charles County Fair

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