Driving a narrow two-lane blacktop in Catawba County yesterday morning singing along to The Avett Brothers Ten Thousand Words at the top of my lungs, I rounded a gentle hilly curve and came about this close to joining a carnival. No, I mean, really … a carnival caravan was directly in front of me crawling along at maybe 12 mph. Braking, I slowed in just enough time to avoid becoming one with a Tilt-a-Whirl.
After the initial blast of adrenalin that was not nearly as good as if I had actually been ON the ride, I took a deep breath and fell into a lazy, not-in-a-hurry pace behind the caravan. In the 15 minutes before I turned onto the ramp heading east on I-40, I relived a lifetime of fair (state and county) and carnival memories. A rubber monkey tied to a long stick. Goldfish swimming unsuspectingly in a clear plastic bag. Felt hats embroidered with your name across the crown. Stomach drop from the first swirling spin of the Octopus. Lights in every color flashing and blinking. Intoxicating aromas of cotton candy, hot dogs, candy apples. Was there really a two-headed calf in there? Who in their right mind swallows a sword anyway?
The amusement ride in front of me was almost sad in it’s disassembled state. Paint faded and peeling, no where to hide in the bright sunlight. But on it went toward a place of mystery and imagination.
There was even a brief moment when I thought “hey, I’m not working, I could run away and join the carnival,” never having completely forgotten that one of my first dreams in life was to be a bareback rider in the circus (way too much Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks With a Circus for those of you who remember).
I don’t know where they had been, nor where they were headed, but for a few short miles, I was with going with them. Memories and all.