Sunday, May 18, 2008


Do you remember the childhood fun of your first carnival or amusement park? I drive past the site of our town's annual "carni" and see that this is the weekend for some playtime for me and the grandkids. Luckily, a rainy Friday turns into a clear, sunny Saturday and I pick up a very excited Sophie and Hannah, ready to explore the booths and rides while their mommy has a few peaceful hours to herself.

Sophie is such a big sister and veteran at this, explaining to Hannah what to expect and later guiding her through some rough spots on the high slide and faster rides. The girls meet up with neighborhood friends and the afternoon turns into a shared adventure. Nothing like little peers to make the kiddie rides even more fun.

The food concessions lose out (thank goodness) to the challenge of fishing for prizes and throwing nerf balls into a basket. I'm amazed at Sophie's and Hannah's patient determination with their fishing rods as they wriggle hooks over tiny bobbing yellow duckies. Their perseverance pays off and soon I am walking around holding onto stuffed animals, a large yellow bounce ball, and sweaters shrugged off in the rising heat of the afternoon.

As the girls run to get onto their favorite rides, I study the worn and weathered faces of the carnival workers and wonder what kind of life this is - always on the road, making meager wages, setting up and striking down the equipment. I feel sorry for these transient souls which helps to justify some of the money I shell out to keep my grandkids happy.

That's when it hits me, watching the crowds of like-minded families around me ... the carnival is about breaking out of a weekly routine, packing up the kids and indulging them for a couple hours where the noise and lure of excitement carry the day. It's very zen, being in the moment as your grandchild's face flashes a wide grin.

Suddenly, I'm back in my own past, resonating and remembering other merry-go-round and roller-coaster moments. I watch Sophie and Hannah on the go-cars but see their mommy and her little brother, bumping along and laughing merrily in the early '70s. I see my parents indulging their grandchildren as I'm now doing with Sophie and Hannah. It's a mellow feeling, a feeling that let's me tell the girls about my own love of merry-go-rounds and initial fear of roller coasters. Hannah seems glad to know that I didn't care much for the faster, louder rides either. On the other hand, Sophie, the braver soul much like her momma, chooses the adrenaline-pumping varieties whenever the height requirement allows her.

Surprisingly, Hannah does climb up the jungle-gym ride with Sophie and her friends, only to panic at the top; somehow she manages to settle herself and come down the slide. She doesn't go back for seconds, but we all applaud her bravery.

We finish the day where we began, on the merry-go-round. Their little friends have left. This time I join them, throwing my leg over the middle horse, Sophie on one side, Hannah on the other. The wind is ruffling our hair and we are giggling as our faithful steeds carry us off to imaginary lands. The three musketeers.

I am six-years old again, laughing and carefree while the carousel music is playing "When Your Hair Has Turned To Silver". Such irony. I know this song. My father and I used to play this song together.

I am riding on a merry-go-round with my grandchildren. They smile at me in delight. They do not know the lyrics to this song but I do.

When your hair has turned to silver,
I will love you just the same ...