Children of the Corn

Kid wrangling is easier in the summer. Baths suspended in place of the pool. Meals consist of burgers or dogs. And the weekends are stocked with parties, festivals and fairs guaranteed to keep the kids on the run til they’re begging for bed.

Entertainment need not be elaborate. Take the little country fair last weekend. There were no bumper cars, no crickety roller coaster or midway games. No stuffed animals or cheap toys to win.

Just lots of craft booths — soaps and quilts, bird feeders and windcatchers — and pony rides, a petting zoo, and a moon bounce. The kids spent an hour shadowing an all-too-patient donkey and hovering over a dozing piglet. They killed another hour swimming in a kiddle pool full of dried corn kernels. In the meantime Martin and I stuffed ourselves with country fair cuisine: barbecue, hand cut fries, roasted corn, hand-churned ice cream and fresh lemonade, spared that sweet smack of powdered mix.

By mid-afternoon, I collapsed in a root-beer float coma. After a few minutes a blue-haired granny wearing a straw hat and wielding a clip board hovered over me. “You doing the cake walk?,” she yelled over the bluegrass band. “Can’t sit in these chairs here unless you’re doing the cakewalk!”

I wasn’t interested in doing anything related to walking. I just wanted to puddle in the shade. And ignore the fact that we should be home mowing and weeding and cleaning.

I surveyed the food wrappers, baby bottle, diaper bag and melted ice littered across the neighboring chairs. “How much does the cake walk cost?”

“Twenty-five cents,” she said.

A bargain for chair rental. I ponied up for tickets for me and all my debris. When Granny blew the whistle, I scooped up Brynn and dutifully followed the parade around the circle of chairs in duck-duck-goose fashion. When the whistle sounded again I plopped down in chair #12. “Number 7!” Granny shouted, brandishing a strawberry shortcake.

Afterward, I reclaimed my seat near the stroller and our gear as Martin returned with the next course: a bowl brimming with ice cream. “Well I lost the cake walk,” I said, “but I won us another 55 minutes in the shade.”

In the end we stacked up our three sweaty kids in the stroller — their bellies full of ice cream and kettle corn — and headed home, with time to mow, weed wack and clean the barn. Instead, we shook the corn out of our clothes and leapt into the pool. There’s plenty of time to mow and muck; the pool’s days are numbered.