One of my favorite memories as a child was every year going to the fairs and festivals that all the surrounding small towns had. Toronto always had something going on. My mom would take me to these constantly. I always wondered if she was so obsessed by them because they seemed to infer some sort of nostalgia for her? Like some mythical childhood that she could replicate by the feeling that a small town festival gives?
The one I'd always dreamed about when I was a girl was Scarborough Fair. Besides being one of the first songs we learned to play on the flute, it was just such a pretty song and in so few words said so much. You can imagine a bonny lass telling someone to tell her lad in Scarborough to say hello. What kept them apart? Distance, families, society strappings, class warfare? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme....
At least once a month we went to some parade, festival, something. My mother actually didn't have a big network of friends, so I think that this was in some manner her way to stay and feel connected to the community, although I often had the feeling she was more the one on the outside looking in through the window at the cozy family inside.
But I loved Loved LOVED going to the fairs. From Winterlicious in January (god it was cold!) to Montreal for Winterfair, to the Jazz Festival, the Dragon Boat Parade, the Fringe party (theatre), the Cabbagetown Fall Festival. You name it - chances are we were there.
When I was younger I was mostly interested in the rides. I saw another Story on here by Victoria B http://www.storyofmylife.com/User/user_story_view.aspx?storyId=1054&UserId=1036&ChapterId=1159 that made me glad I never liked those for too long. When I was slightly older I liked the lights and action and fun houses and being thrilled - rides, games, whatnot. Early teens it was about boys boys boys. There were always hoardes of boys roaming the festivals. Being bad boys.
And it was ALWAYS about the food. Is there really nothing better in this world than sick, unhealthy, tasty fair food? Falafel, beignets, funnel cakes, cotton candy, caramel apples with nuts, candy apples, hot spicy nuts, cardboard pizza, and often whatever the specialty was - corn, garlic, apples. Fudge, taffy, kettle corn!
We never had any junk food in our house. We actually never really had that much food period as my mother didn't like to cook. So going to the fairs was the time to indulge. Mom would allow me to pick one "bad" thing to eat, so I plotted out my trips to the different fairs. One festival would be elephant ears, another would be gyros. And so on.
My mother used to buy a lot of art from the local artists who'd sale their stuff too. She was really picky about what she'd buy. I still have many of the pieces that she purchased. I doubt any of them are worth anything except the personal value to me because I see my mom in them. I can remember where a lot of them came from. There is one painting of a rainy sidewalk with lights and a couple walking under an umbrella. This picture has always fascinated me because if you stand far enough away, the lights look like actual street lights like how they melt into a wet sidewalk. She bought that one at the Celtic Festival, from some sad Australian guy who was traveling the festivals selling his art. He had a really thin, scraggly mustache and almost whined when he talked. I couldn't stand listening to him but my mother was fascinated with this painting and wanted to hear why he painted it.
He said that he'd painted it for a couple he'd seen as a young man walking down a rainy street in Sydney. A couple obviously in love and the man was holding the umbrella to protect as much of the lady as possible, but they were both getting wet but neither seemed to mind. I remember that I didn't like this guy at all, but I remember my mom looking at him when he was telling this story and sensing she had some sort of kinship with him - perhaps as though (as I liked to think) they were both thinking that some people had a love that was elusive to them.
We never saw that guy again (often you'd see the same people come back year after year) but I now have that painting above my desk in my bedroom.
There's so much I wish I could ask my mother. So many things I want to know. To understand her, and to understand me. I kept hoping to come across some of those secret diaries somewhere, but I don't think my mother ever wrote anyway, so it wasn't really a surprise. She was quite secretive in so many ways. I realize that instill a lot of my own interpretation on events and things she said and they're hardly unbiased or coloured by my own experiences.
I often feel she talked to me through the things we DID rather than anything much she SAID. So I don't feel guilty about interpreting these situations how I felt them. Maybe I was totally off. Maybe she hated the guy but was listening in sympathy to talk the price down. Maybe she wanted him to ask her out. Maybe he reminded her of her father. I didn't ask, so I tell stories to fill in the gaps.