Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Facing the Fourth

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to me to be part of a community. My first instinct was to feel guilty because I don't volunteer or participate like I did when I was in college.

Then, because I don't like guilt, I redirected my focus towards not what my ideals are but what my reality is.

I live in the town I was born in. I haven't stayed here my whole life, but I chose to come back and raise my family here. For the most part, the people are friendly and stable. There's a thriving art community and lots of local bands. Plenty of factories and plenty of corporations means that there's a nice cross section of people, both blue collar and white collar.

We're also a community who welcomed Hmong refugees from Laos in the eighties and nineties. Now the Hmong make up ten percent of our population, something I'm proud of. Not many small Midwestern communities would do what we did. And while a lot of the white folks complain about them, I sympathize with the refugees and their families. And I wish I knew their language so I could do more than smile warmly when I see them.

But on a more personal level, I'm looking forward to going to the festivities at the big park in town tomorrow. It'll be fun to show Ben the animals I've been imitating for months. The cow says "moo" and the duck says "quack." The chicken says "cluck/bawk" and the rooster says "cock-a-doodle-doo." The pig says "snort/oink" and the sheep says "baaa-baaa." I never told him how smelly the animals are, so he might actually enjoy them. Goodness knows he likes dirt and stink, being a boy. If ever there was a town-raised young'un who would love some time on a farm, it's my boy.

I don't like crowds and loud noises, but I'm taking Ben to the carnival. On purpose. Without getting drunk. I might shove him on a couple rides with Daddy. I might let him taste the crunchy-gooey heaven that is cotton candy, fresh from the spinner. There might even be a funnel cake in his future.

I want him to see the tradition that we Americans have of gathering together on ridiculously hot days to spend stupid amounts of money on chaotic rides and junk food. I want him to see the mess of people of all kinds and how they interact with each other in the sticky craziness of fairs. I want him to see how proud the 4H kids are of their animals and their produce and their crafts.

I don't expect to enjoy myself, but I do expect to enjoy the look of amazement and curiosity on my son's face. It'll be years before he feels the urge to become housebound hermits like his Mom and Dad.

And to be honest... I really like fair food.