Since our family spends one full day at the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition every single summer, it’s something we all remember fondly throughout the year.
This year at the Ex marked the first time my husband and I didn’t need to buy ride tickets or bracelets for ourselves — our petite six-year-old could go on every “big” ride she wanted, without an adult. She was so proud of herself.
(Technically she was a smidge under the line, but no one seemed too concerned about measuring her. It wasn’t like that scene in Big when little Josh Baskin is humiliated at the fair.)
So we didn’t ride. We watched and waited and patiently followed them to the next ride for more watching and waiting. Most of our friends were doing the same, and we all marvelled at how big the kids were getting. Before we know it, we said, we’ll be dropping them off at the gates!
The rides are mostly set up in the same spots each time, and we all have the layout memorized. The uneven dirt, the rubber mats covering the power cables, the clicking mechanical sounds from the ride motors, the smell of sugar mixed with grease — it’s all the same, every year.
We have so many wonderful family memories at the Ex, and in a way, it was like walking back in time. Whenever I stood at the metal railings surrounding each ride, waving at the kids and taking blurry pictures as they zoomed by, I was overcome by how much had changed …
We stood at those very same rides years ago, when our son was a toddler and our daughter was either snug in my purple Moby wrap or a little lump in the umbrella stroller.
I couldn’t look at the rickety Go Gater roller coaster without remembering how our daughter wailed during her first ride on it. I smiled over at the Merry-Go-Round and its unbearably sleepy music, remembering the many loops my husband and I travelled on that one — lightly holding onto their backs so they didn’t tumble off the horses.
Now, suddenly, they were eight and six — running from ride to ride and casually talking to other kids in line and dancing to the music while they waited their turn. They met up with friends from school and organized who was going to sit with whom. They laughed when someone threw up on the Tilt-a-Whirl, but knew enough to carefully inspect the compartments so they didn’t sit in the washed-away vomit residue.
In the spirit of nostalgia, I suggested they take at least one ride on the little train. Then, I told them eagerly, they could say they’d done all of the kiddie rides, as well as half of the grown-up rides. Our son rolled his eyes and declared the train was “lame,” but both kids eventually got on with their friends.
Of course, my two zoomed to the very front car — hmm, what’s the opposite of a caboose? — and squished into it together. Our big, tough eight-year-old clanged the bell with delight and pretended to push all of the controls. Then he rode it again, later, still claiming the front car.
I took picture after picture, even though it was almost dark by then and they all came out blurry. The kids may have been running back to the Sizzler next, but in that moment, they were riding the little choo-choo around the plastic oval track — ringing the bell and making me a very happy mom.