Fifty Cent Memories

Sitting on the back steps, I could hear the music, and when it got dark, I could see the lights.  Actually, I could see their glow in the sky above the trees.  To a little boy, it was a magical time of year.  The carnival had come to town, and with it came a sense of excitement and, as I remember, a sense of longing.
It was only a weekend thing, set up on Friday and gone by Sunday.  I would spend all day Friday watching them set up the rides, and the tents.  The fair was held in the parking lot, right behind the town hall.  There was always a row of tents to hold the games of chance, the food booths.  Of course, there was also the obligatory Ferris Wheel and Merry-Go- Round as well as other rides like the Octopus and the Tilt-A-Whirl (my favorite), and an assortment of kiddy rides.  I would stay all day, until I knew I had to be home for supper. And that is how I came to be  found, sitting on our back steps on Friday night,  longing to go, but without a nickel to my name.  Sometimes being eight or nine was tough.
Saturday was even worse.  This was the big day and I think most everyone in town was at the fair, except me.  Money was tight and extras were kind of hard to come by.  But the plight of a little boy, sitting on the back steps was even to much for my cash strapped parents.  Usually, by early afternoon, somehow they would find an extra fifty cents.  With a stern warning not to waste it all on the games, I was off like a shot, a kid on a mission.
Upon arrival, I would do a lot of walking around, surveying my surroundings, and basking in the atmosphere.  All the sights, sounds and smells blending to create a childhood Xanadu, the coins weighing heavy in my pocket.  Suddenly, I became very frugal, wanting to experience the rides and taste the cotton candy, but also, wanting to make my money last.  However, after one ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl and a hot dog, I loosened up a little.  The afternoon always lasted longer then my money, but it didn’t matter.  I was where I wanted to be.  It was carnival and I was part of it.
I found myself wondering the other day if they even still had one every year, so I looked it up on the web, and sure enough, they do.  I saw some pictures and have to admit, it looked a lot different, what with shiny, bright colored rides I had never seen before, and laser light shows.  But I am sure more then that has changed.  In today’s environment, I imagine that the simple pleasures of scaring yourself by rocking the car on a Ferris Wheel ride, or the melodic music of a Merry-Go-Round doesn’t hold the same sense of excitement that they did back then.
I think if I were to go back today, it would probably be a bitter sweet encounter.  I would be a stranger in the familiar.  Trying to recapture a piece of my youth, or even rekindle a little of the joy I experienced, would be fruitless.  Some things are better left alone I guess.  I’ll never be that boy again, but I sure did buy a lot of memories with my fifty cents.

Originally published June 2014

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About oldmainer

I am retired and live in southern Maine with my wife and two dogs. I started Oldmainer .wordpress.com as an outlet for my occasional opinions and random observations, with some poetry thrown in. I welcome anyone that wants to kick back and join me here on the porch, exploring all the gifts we have been given and the memories collected. Thanks for stopping by.
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