My husband and I moved to Raleigh after three years of living in Tokyo, Japan, and it took a little time to (a) get over the jet lag, and (b) get reacquainted to life in these United States.
The jet lag took care of itself, after a while, but it took one of the most American of American experiences to really get our heads around the fact that we were home: a visit to the North Carolina State Fair.
The fair came to town about a month after we arrived here, and some friends invited us along to check it out. We'd been to fairs before, of course, but nothing like this. It was huge! It was crowded! It was deeply, deeply fried.
We were in heaven. We happily followed our knowledgeable friends as they walked us through the buildings showing off prize animals and giant pumpkins, and we shoved delicious fair food in our mouths every chance we got. We didn't even bother with the rides or the tractor pull or the midway games -- people-watching was entertainment enough.
Ever since then, even with all that Raleigh and the surrounding area has to offer in terms of culture and entertainment, the fair has been a highlight of our year. We go every year, and we do the same things: eat and gawk.
But with a toddler in tow, things are a little different.
It's hard to juggle a kid and a deep-fried, bacon-covered cinnamon roll (but not impossible, I should add). And it's hard to really indulge in people-watching when you're too busy concentrating on trying to keep your kid from getting trampled.
But, as we've learned from experience, we just shrug and do the best we can -- and the tradeoffs more than make up for what we miss. Sure, we can't cover as much ground as we used to when we were two kidless people wandering around from morning to long past sunset. Now we have to get home for naptime. But the carousel we used to ignore is now the destination, and the pure delight on our kiddo's face while she rides is well worth the three tickets it cost to get in.
And then there's the look on her face when she gets her first taste of something like a deep-fried, bacon-covered cinnamon roll.
"Want MORE!" she says before she's even chewed up the bite in her mouth.
Even at age two, she completely understands the spirit of the fair. And maybe it's the spirit of America, too, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.