Before the parade passes by


‘Believe it or not, summer’s almost over’

I’ve written about the astonishing swiftness of summer before. (See “The Days are Long, but The Season is Short.”) And more than just that one time. (See “Yup, Summer’s Officially Over,” etc. etc.) One would think that by now, with so many summers under my baby-boomer belt, I’d be used to the swiftness of it all.

One would be wrong.

What made me realize that this particular pandemic-plagued summer was already sailing inexorably into its sunset was a photo my beloved Favorite Only Sister posted on Instagram recently.

Here it is. Showing a mixed assortment of Clinton County Parade spectators. Looks like I missed a *sniff* swell time that year

She posted it because, yes, it’s Clinton County Fair Time again. The Parade pictured was enjoyed during a time when we kids were all grown up, some of us with kids of our own. I was, alas, missing from the scene that particular year. But I did get to witness the “Surfing the Internet with God” float (pictured at the top of this post) on another similarly-memorable Parade-watching occasion.

The Clinton County Fair had (and no doubt still has) plenty for everyone. If you weren’t into the Demolition Derby there was the animal judging (chickens, cows, even bunnies!) There were rides and win-a-stuffed-animal booths, both run by scary/sexy carnies. There were corn dogs to wash down with tall cups of the best lemonade on the planet (made by Methodist Ladies with a godly-good secret recipe.)

A gaggle of happy lemonade-sippers, including The Child sporting either very long legs or a very short dress

Trust me, we never missed a Fair, or a Fair Parade for that matter. It was terrific fun getting pelted by candy tossed by teenagers on floats and, later, at the Fair itself, getting all dusty and sweaty running around with your friends trying to dodge your parents until it was time to go home.

Grownup Uncle Arlyn graciously takes The Child for a Whirly Thing spin

Grownups had a good time at the Fair too, and looked forward to it eagerly. Which was why I would be puzzled every year when my mother would pause mid-coffee-sip and put down the Banner with a little sigh.(The Carlyle Union Banner: hometown newspaper and, later on, the scene of my first gainful employment that did not involve taking care of children.)

The Banner in question would be the issue with the photos of the Queen candidates arrayed on the front page—clad in gorgeous gowns and well as humiliating bathing suits—along with their ages, their schools and their hobbies and interests. (My Beloved Sister and I would howl at these; Carlyle being a very small town in the middle of Southern Illinois, these girls weren’t into, say, bonsai or philately.)

The Child cons another Grownup into riding a rather rusty Ferris Wheel

Here would be my sister and me betting each other on who would be crowned Queen. Me: “This one is the prettiest.” My Sister: “This one’s from Breese. Yours doesn’t have a chance.”

And here would be my mother, sighing. “What’s wrong, Mom?” we’d ask. And, every year, she would sigh one more time for good measure and say, “When it’s Fair time, it means summer is over.” And we’d be all “What do you mean? It’s only mid-July!”

And she’d sigh again.

Mom looking a tad wistful while shucking corn

Well, now I get it. It’s right when you’re knee deep in sweet corn and in the thick of berry summery things when you realize it’s all pretty much over. And that soon it’ll be time for bookbags and Nifty binders and maybe even a new red plaid skirt. (Though this fall, with, no doubt, its share of classes-by-Zoom, no one would appreciate that skirt. Not unless you wore it on your head.)

Now me, I know summer’s almost over when I’m almost done with my big ole stack of seasonal books. So far, I’ve plowed through almost all of Iris Murdoch, sprinkled here and there with some pandemic specials like The Plague, plus a few spicy nuggets like The Jaws Log and this juicy title, released just today and definitely calling my name. Gotta run, er read. While, by gosh, there’s still some summer left.

Amagansett, New York. July 2020


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