AT THE 4-H FAIR

Editor’s Note:  Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

Humidity from recent rain hung in air graying distant objects. JK wanted to see harness racing at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.  When the early morning shower ended, the weatherman predicted no more for the day. JK, my son, David, and I headed for the fair’s grand stand.

Harness racing at the 4-H Fair

Harness racing at the 4-H Fair

Several races had been run when we climbed steps to sit under the roofed section of the bleachers. JK knew harness racing from his teen years in Chicago and explained a few details that make pacers different from other trotters.

However, after the first few contests, only JK stayed focused on the dirt track races. David walked the grandstand. I looked around from my high perch and photographed the scene. After a few more races, JK said, “That’s enough.”

We descended and began exploring the fair at ground level near the Dairy Bar. The day was hot. JK got in line for an ice cream cone while David went off to get a specialty coffee. Several minutes later, I was seated in shade while David sipped his brew and JK licked his cone.

I was eager to see the “Home Arts” displays.  A seamstress in my extended family had made matching dresses for her granddaughters and won first prize in her division. I wanted to see the work and also study the quilting, art and crafts that had also earned ribbons.

JK dropped off from our trio at the Dairy Barn, saying he wanted to look around.  I shook my head. “I’m going to see the homemaking displays.”

JK nodded and entered the Holstein barn.

David and I walked to the next low white building. I first turned toward the Ladies Room.  David said, “I’m going in to look around.”

I nodded. “OK.”

Entering the Home Arts building, I turned toward the displays. Across the room, David lifted his arm and waved me over. He stood with a slender, blond, young woman. Who’s that?

I made my way through a crowd toward the pair. Reaching them, I recognized his cousin Kara. “Hi , Kara!” I glanced around for her daughter or husband but saw no one. “Did you come out to the fair alone?”

Kara shook her head.  She pointed behind me to a white-haired woman bent over her walker looking at a glassed-in quilt display. “I have family-duty.”

Seeing the lady made my gut clench. Years before I had been close to the once dark-haired elder. Then, several years after my divorce she had said, “Don’t send me birthday and Christmas cards. And, stop coming by the house. I don’t want to see you.”

Clearly divorce was not acceptable. In her eyes, I was like a Hindu Untouchable.

The woman’s words echoed in my memory. I didn’t want to “be social” with her. I needed to get away and calm myself. Looking back at David and his towhead cousin, I said, “I want to see the Blue Ribbon outfit my little cousin wore for her grandma’s project judging. It’s here somewhere.”

I skirted the chatting pair and crossed to the sewing display.  Standing there, I felt tremulous and my breath came in short puffs.  Adrenaline! I can’t let this encounter get to me. She’s an old lady now….

I straightened my spine and took a deep breath.  I’m OK.  I was just blindsided.  I calmed my nerves by studying sewing winners and also found my young cousin’s blue ribbon outfit.

Trying to act normal, I returned to David and Kara. I chatted with the young woman I sometimes saw downtown. “Are you still working at The Exchange?”

She shook her head. “My boss was driving me crazy!

Wide-eyed, I said, “Jerry? He seems so laid back!”

Kara shook her head. “I told him he was driving me nuts. “ She grinned and I realized she meant it was a joke.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old woman still had her back to us. She rolled her walker to the next display case.

David, his cousin and I moved to remain behind the old matron who continued slowly down the long display of ribbon-winning crafts. When the dowager reached the end of the show case, she turned. Facing her now, I said, “Hello, Carolyn.”

As if I were a favorite person absent a long while, she gave me a big smile. “Hello Fritzie! How are you?”

At her unexpected greeting, I replied, “Fine.” Remembering her love of crafts I continued, “Are you looking for a new project?”

After two more polite exchanges I turned to David. “I think JK has gotten lost. I need to look for him.”

Before leaving I turned to the old woman, “Nice seeing you, Carolyn.”

My unexpected encounter with the elder lady triggered old hurt. Ordinarily, I would have avoided her potential snub or just escaped the situation.  However, that day I overcame past emotional injury enough to do the “next right thing.”

I am blessed.

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