Carnie Freaks and a Pint-Sized Adrenalin Junkie


I was blessed with experiencing another first with my granddaughter yesterday—attending a traveling carnival.

It wasn’t like you see in the movies—large circus tents, wild animals, bearded ladies (which I now realize is just called Menopause), fire-eating octogenarians, and Bobo The Monkey Boy—it was one of those tiny carnivals that pops up in a strip mall parking lot. A handful of rides, a couple games, and an extortionist. No, I didn’t mean to say contortionist. I meant to say extortionist. You know, the one in the booth who makes you pay a mortgage payment for a strip of tickets for the rides? I think the deal yesterday was $5 for 1 ticket or $35 for 22. With each ride requiring two tickets, I think you can probably figure out which option I chose.

I was invited by my daughter who thanked me for coming because she didn’t “want to look like a loser” going by herself. I can appreciate that, especially since it was a first for her too and besides, there always needs to be someone to take pictures, right?

Of the ten rides, only three were suitable for our little cutie: the carousel, the giant slide, and the vomitron. Okay, maybe it’s not the actual name for the ride, but there’s a reason I avoid that one. Innocently disguised as giant pink and blue dragons, crawling into their belly never leads to anything good. With fear in my heart, we started with the carousel. Easy, right?

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“I don’t want to go on that,” was, I think, the equivalent to calling dibs on something. My daughter said it first, so I was forced to be my granddaughter’s ride buddy. I was okay with being voluntold though, because I seem to always screw up any photos I take with my daughter’s camera, and I didn’t want to risk spoiling the memories of the outing.

As my granddaughter nears the 16-month-old mark, you can imagine that she was a little standoffish as I placed her in the saddle of the cold and hard horsie. She also couldn’t seem to understand how crucial it was to hold on. So I put my arm around her waist, held on to the pole, and stood in my very bestest subway stance. I was ready.

I wasn’t ready.

That stallion burst out of the gates with a vigor that I was not expecting.

How do other parents make this look so easy?

I was moderately freaking out as she was violently bucked up and down by the steed (similar to the experience of driving along Hamilton’s infamous Burlington Street), while the g-force of the speed caused my eyes to water and cheeks to flutter.

How the HELL do other parents make this look so EASY?

By the time it stopped, my heart was pounding, and I was relieved that I hadn’t dropped her.

I needed a break from those wild beasts and, since we weren’t allowed to take her on the sparkly motorcycles or cars, we went over to the smiling, spinning, demonic dragons—the vomitron.

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“Excuse me. Do you have one that doesn’t spin?”

The lovely attendant with the heavy Jamaican accent flashed me a big grin and led us to the dragon that was repeatedly forcing him to give kids a free ride after their disappointment of its lack of spinning capabilities.

We entered the dragon’s bright pink belly and my granddaughter looked a little concerned. So much so, that she crawled up on my lap for the duration of the ride. I was proud of myself for not throwing up on her, but I think she might have been feeling as queasy as her old gramma. Once it stopped, she crawled over to her mom and the look on her face made me grateful that she was a good cookie-tossing distance away from me.

Before releasing us from our pink fiberglass prison cell, the lovely Jamaican man came over and played peek-a-boo with my granddaughter, spun us around one more time, and then released all the other prisoners first.

Oh-my-gawd! LET ME OUT!

He then returned for another round of peek-a-boo and a high-five before allowing us our well-deserved freedom. It took every ounce of my being to keep a smile on my face and a positive outward disposition.

Next was the giant slide. Again, I was the guinea pig while my daughter stood at the base of the ride with her camera poised.

My granddaughter giggled the entire way down and, once we reached the bottom, she let out the cry-shout noise she makes when she’s not happy about a situation. What wasn’t she happy about? She wasn’t happy that it was over. I realized then, that we have an adrenalin junkie on our hands. Back to the top we went. Same result. Since the vomitron was out of the question, I thought I’d take her back to the horsies to distract her from the potato sack drop of death.

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This time, I rocked that carousel. Found my core balance and almost did it with ease. The third and final time for us to run with the untamed majestic beasts started with my granddaughter pushing my hands off her and trying to ride with no hands. Fortunately, she is at an age where she can understand when I tell her that I must do something for her own safety. Begrudgingly, she let me put one arm around her waist, but she was determined to ride the stallion without hands on the reins. I had a momentary image of her being the scantily clad woman who rides the stallion at the circus. You know, the one who stands on the horse’s back and performs death-defying feats while the animal gallops around the big top. Yeah. That will be my granddaughter. It will probably be something she does to fill her time between her trapeze and fire-eating performances.

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One more time down the drop of doom and we’d be on our way. This time she really started to cry once it was over. Oh boy. She’s at “that” age now. Soon enough though, she’ll be at the age of understanding logic and reason, so I will then implement my OP method—Offensive Parenting. OP is the term I use for using an offensive approach (think football) to an outing in lieu of a defensive response when things go sideways with a child.

So with some new memories tucked in my pocket, I must prepare for my next “first”—white water rafting with my beloved next weekend. What are the chances that I can learn to swim and get over my fear of water before then? I guess I need to read my own advice from last week.

Gawd. What ever happened to just relaxing with a good book?

Apparently, not in my future any time soon.

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Don’t believe the smile… It’s just a combination of g-force and stoicism.

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