Tales from the Merry-go-round

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By: 
Matt Geiger

Summer festivals

A fish died and a kid threw up. That’s the most succinct description I can come up with from the weekend. 

We attended one of those smalltown carnivals, those places where deep fryers congregate like a hundred thousand wildebeasts assembling for migration. A place full of buzzers, bells, lights, power chords the size of your forearm, corn dogs, and the screams and giggles of children who are zooming through the Midwestern sky on rides while adults gaze into their wallets and purses and wonder where all their money has gone. 

In addition to the standard small-town carnival experience–which includes a bit of indigestion and a draining of your bank account–we got the deluxe package this year. I accidentally won a fish, which was a bit of a grim surprise since I was under the impression none of the carnival games were winnable. We brought it home, made a nice home for it, and had our daughter name it, primarily so we could have something to inscribe on its tombstone when it died 24 hours later. In addition to the fish incident, we also got to see a child, not my child but one standing very close to her, who had redistributed his lunch on the Tilt-A-Whirl ride, and on himself. 

Snoopy attacked

Snoopy was mauled the other day. One of his eyes was plucked from his face, and his little red aviator scarf was shredded in the attack. 

It was his dancing that did it. If you squeeze his left paw–which invites you to do so with the words “squeeze me” on it–the “Peanuts” theme song emanates from his belly like melodic indigestion. He’ll dance from side to side, assuming he’s on a flat enough surface. Put him on a rug and he’ll simply fall down, then continue performing his dance, which is much sadder when he’s horizontal and flat on his snout, until the music ceases.

The movement, or maybe the sound (we aren’t sure), triggers our puppy’s prey drive, and she dives toward him, latches onto his white coat with her jaws, and proceeds to shake him in what I think is an attempt to break his neck. My daughter thinks it’s hilarious, that these two dogs–one real, the other a toy made in a factory and imagined into existence–could play together. I don’t know how I’m going to break it to her that if Snoopy’s general state of health gets much worse, we might have to euthanize him.   

Flowers

Every spring, breathtakingly beautiful flowers sprout, completely free of charge, in virtually every yard in North America. After spending the entire winter moaning about how much they miss the flower-dappled verdancy of warmer months, people see the flowers, freak out, and spend billions of dollars killing them, inadvertently killing any bees, frogs, and possibly people, who happen to live nearby.

Just imagine if people tackled real problems, like homelessness and hunger, with the energy they pour into the war against dandelions. 

Ever since she learned to speak, my daughter has called these little surges of life “sunflowers,” making crowns and an assortment of other jewelry and concoctions with them. I went online and found out that many, if not most children call them “sunflowers,” which makes sense because they are distant relatives and they both bring joy and seem to both worship and reflect the sun. The children all love them, because they are harmless and loveable, the chickens devour them, and the dogs are more than happy to have something new and pretty to pee on. Only the adult humans, those beings so willfully committed to finding unnecessary chores to do and inventing silly problems to fret about, don’t want them. I’ve noticed that neighborhoods where a lot of relatively enlightened people live have more and more of these free flowers these days, however. They used to be an emblem of something embarrassing, some kind of lawn aesthetic faux pas in middle America, but now I think a few people have decided that perhaps flowers are actually not the biggest of our problems and decided to choose their battles. So maybe there is hope. Because flowers are only weeds if you don’t want them, and I do want them, so I guess I have one less thing to worry about. 

It’s not a matter of class or political affiliation, or wealth or race or gender or anything else. It’s just that a few of us like things that are pretty to look at, and aren’t hurting anybody, and only want to live for a little while, soaking up and reflecting the sun and creating a a few crowns and a few memories for all the people who are willing to see them for what they are.  

Don’t grow up too quickly

Kids have vivid imaginations. But they never seem to want me to join in. They’ll create the most absurd, elaborate fantasy world, but whenever I try to enter it, they’ll look at me like I’m insane. They’ll be pretending to be elves who live on the back of a giant troll who plays shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. But when I say, “I’m a gnome who lives nearby,” they look horrified, as if I’ve become completely unhinged. Apparently, seeing an adult using his imagination is like seeing a ferret doing calculus. It’s so rare that it seems nearly borderline unnatural.  

The other night, while lying in bed reading to my daughter after a long, warm day of playing, I put my arm around her and recited a cliché that felt like it needed to be said: “Don’t grow up too quickly, okay?” 

She looked at me like I was in dire need of IQ points, and replied: “Dad, I don’t know how to change the speed I grow up. I don’t think people can do that.”

It was a very adult answer to give, and it made her seem very grown up indeed. 

The next night, I tried something else. I said: “Sweet dreams.” Hadley opened her eyes, looked at me with the utmost sincerity, and said: “Dad, you know, people can’t really control their dreams.”

 

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