“The State Fair.”
That’s what my college-bound daughter answered when I asked, “Is there anywhere else you’d like to go before you leave next week?”
She said she wanted to ride the rides, and when she said “rides,” her eyes lit up like they did when she was four and wanted to ride “Sandy,” the mechanical horse in Meijer that gently galloped while she held onto the leather straps and stared straight ahead, focused. A ride on Sandy cost a penny.
I bought $20 wristbands for my daughter and her siblings and took them to the Indiana State Fair where—after pausing for a snapshot in front of the World’s Biggest Popcorn Ball—they rode the rides for hours, taking only two breaks: one to slurp a chocolate milkshake from the Dairy Barn and another to eat an elephant ear.
While they rode, I sat on a bench next to the Deep Fried Twinkie seller and read a book. I looked up every once in a while at the tallest rides that rose above the roof of the Ag building, imagining the kids swirling, spinning, circling to the top.
By this time next week, that girl on the Ferris wheel snapping selfies with her sister will be spreading out her comforter on the twin bed of her dorm room and propping up the pink plush pillow we bought at Target. She grabbed the pillow and hugged it when we rolled past it in the store.
“Can I get it? For my bed?” She leaned her face against the fluffy fabric, and I nodded and she grinned and put it gently in the cart on top of the extension cord and Kleenex boxes and shower caddy.
I couldn’t see the kids from where I was sitting, reading, next to the Deep Fried Twinkies, but I saw their snapshots later taken on the swings and the Ferris wheel. They came back to me when they had ridden every ride as many times as they wanted. When I asked about their favorites, and the kids described a ride called “Alien Abduction,” and how they couldn’t tell from the outside what the ride would be like. They climbed inside without knowing what to expect, and it started spinning, pressing them against the wall until it was spinning fast and they started to rise up, as if floating in space.
“I saw the other seats going up,” my daughter said, “so I could see what was happening, but you don’t realize you’re rising until all of a sudden you realize you’re not on the floor anymore,” my daughter said. “You try to lift your arms but you can’t do anything and even though you know they test it, you’re still a little afraid.”
I laughed, and as I walked to the car with the daughter I’ll leave on a college campus for the first time ever with her pink plush pillow and her comforter and her Kleenex boxes, I realized I’m not on the floor anymore—I’m floating in space, and I can’t do anything, and even though a million others have been through this before, I’m still a little afraid.
Life is about to change for all of us….
Though I’m the one groaning about it, her life changes most.
Megan Willome says
Beautiful writing, Ann!
My heart is with you.
Thank you, Megan. Send-offs change us all…but this one I know is going to be just fine. I just have to get used to it. 🙂
Nancy Franson says
I can’t begin to count how many times my daughter went out for ice cream “one last time” with her childhood friends, the summer before she left for college. The very last thing she did when we were packing up her Subaru to take her to school was to run into the house to grab her Samantha doll.
I was fine until she did that. It seemed as though she was running back into the house to grab one last piece of her childhood to hold onto. That’s what this snapshot of your state fair says to me–there is beauty and value in holding onto the things that were good from one’s childhood.
And, yes, a million others have gone through this change and, yes, you and your daughter will survive it. But it even though it’s been tested a million times over, it still feels like you’ve slowly made your way to the top of that first hill on a roller coaster. You hang there for a second, terrified beyond description, and then you’re off for the ride of your life.
Beautiful, Ann. Grace and peace to both you and your daughter.
Nancy, yes, that’s so good. You brought out some of those unsaid things. Thank you for that, and for your encouragement.
Diana Trautwein says
Ann! BEAUTIFUL writing. I could see it, hear it, almost taste it. Thank you for pouring your heart out onto this page. (But what the heck is an elephant ear??)
Diana, thank you for your words here. But…you don’t know what an elephant ear is? Oh, wow, I can only imagine your shock. It’s like a huge, flat doughnut sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Must be a regional thing? We eat them at fairs and carnivals. There’s always an elephant ear seller. Here’s a picture of one: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/tntdiner/files/2012/09/Elephant-Ear.jpg
Hazel I Moon says
It is so difficult to let go. Your sweet daughter will do fine. She has solid roots and a deep love of Jesus. Our granddaughter has spent two years in Jr college only a few miles away from us. But she has her sights set on San Francisco College as the next step. She has a wonderful Christian Boy friends, but she wants to be on her own for awhile before she gets married. They are still our babies, regardless of how old they get.
It’s so nice to hear from those of you who have been here and done this. And to see that you understand the mixture of emotions.
I remember that ride all too well. The young adults, especially the boys, go flying off without hanging onto anything but their last moments with friends. Meanwhile, this mother melted. At first I was the one having a hard time adjusting. After dropping our youngest off in Abilene, I cried across the Texas plains. I think I stopped by the time we reached El Paso.
It was really hard for me to let go. I’m sure you will do better!
Janis, I don’t know how much I’ll cry. We’ll see. The good news for me is that she won’t be too terribly far away. Far enough that she won’t swing by for every little things, but close enough that we can get to each other in case of emergency. That should make it a little easier. The other three may have plans to go much farther…I’m not sure.
She’ll have her pink plush pillow to burrow her face into when she’s feeling sad, if at all. Maybe I need to go back to Target and get one for myself?
I’m having all kinds of crazy emotions reading this, Ann. Sending hugs.
Thanks for sharing this moment with me, Laura! Days away, and that pink plush pillow gets loaded into the minivan with the sweet girl who wants to lean against it. You’re never too old for plush or state fair rides or elephant ears. I’m going to miss her, let me tell you.
How I love the way you weave words.
(Praying for you, Ann. Love you.)
Thank you, Jennifer. It’s a little rough, but at least it’s real.
my first has been off to his freshman year for five days….and i’m proud and afraid and deeply so.