A couple of years ago, I had been dreaming of capturing one of those iconic photos of legs dangling in the sunset as people spun in a giant circle while riding the county fair swing ride. I put the decision on London, my 14 year old. I wasn’t going to go alone, and her desire to hang out with me in public had been waning. Something about me being unpredictable, inappropriate and embarrassing like “that one time” when I “flirted with an elf” on a holiday lights cruise.
She obliged the idea—she, too, had been dreaming about a visit to the fair since her big brother, ManCub, won a giant unicorn four days prior. Although carnival games are my least favorite aspect of a fair adventure, I agreed to invest in a $20 game card. I watched as sharp darts, thrown at blurring speed, slipped between bulging balloons without a pop. As plastic rings arched through the air and then disappointingly pinged off the tops of bottles, without fail. I watched that $20 investment break my teen’s spirit. Until she spied the basketball hoops game.
“Mom, can you play that for me?” she asked.
“No way,” I replied.
“But I saw that box of trophies and weren’t you a state player or something?” she asked.
I explained that exactly 100 years ago in high school I had been a baller, and had been an all-state player my senior year. “But I left at the top of my game,” I said, smiling. “And it’s bad luck to relive those glory days. Anyway, I need a footlong corndog in my life.”
The commotion of her begging and pleading caught the attention of Bruce, the carnival worker manning the basketball booth. What did I have to lose, he asked. It’s all in fun. “You’re tall, you should try it,” he urged. I agreed to throw six basketballs at a hoop if we could leave the game area forever, no matter the outcome. People began to gather after the commotion I created when I hit my fourth shot in a row. Two shots away from the BIG prize and it began to feel like a high stakes Vegas game.
The Sweet Taste of …
I closed my eyes and sank my teeth into the first full inch of my footlong corndog, hoping it was as magical a flavor experience as I remembered from my childhood. Indeed … it wasn’t. But, I felt young again and was beaming back at my 14 year old as she held a BIG prize because, with much fanfare, I had made all six baskets in the basketball game. Strangely, though, the high for my child only lasted for a blip in time.
“Mom, can we go back and do it again?” she asked.
“No way,” I replied.
But, she said, she wanted the hot pink stuffed pig now. And the game was “really easy” for me, so it shouldn’t be a problem for me to win again. I agreed to go back but refused to be the one to play the game. “You want the pig?” I asked. “You earn the pig.” As I nibbled away at my footlong corndog, the teen missed the first basket, made the second one and then missed the third. “Mom, please do this for me,” she pleaded. I explained she had nothing to lose since the big prize was out of the realm of possibility now. And then Bruce interjected, again, pitching a deal that if I made the next four baskets, London could have the hot pink stuffed pig after all.
I transferred my corndog to my left hand, so I could shoot with my right hand.
“Ummm, Mom, you have to put your corndog down,” London said.
“Yes, you should have her hold the corndog,” said Bruce.
I smiled as I took a bite of the corndog and then shot the first basket. The ball bounced around the rigid rim and fell through the center of the net. Again, drawing the attention of a small crowd, I made the next three baskets, one-handed, while holding my corndog in my other hand.
The sun was setting behind the giant swing ride as we left the fairgrounds, and I paused to capture a picture as I had imagined it. London stood watching, her arms wrapped around a large stuffed koala bear, and one giant, stuffed hot pink pig.
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To taking the shot, reliving our glory days, footlong fair corndogs, teens, and never missing an opportunity to draw a crowd,