Friday, November 19, 2010


If I had given any serious thought to it, I might have realized that my own life would grow when my children acquired spouses. But I don’t think I ever thought of that. I thought only of adding them to our family—of integrating them in. Such a narrow view considering how many options for growth there really are.
Last week Derek took us to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. The Fair is and has been a feature of his life—the place where he showed 4H calves in his youth, the way 4H calves are shown by youth at so many other fairs. That outing was a high point in the second mother-in-law visit.
It certainly wasn’t the first ag fair we’ve ever attended. We have been seen on a more or less regular basis at the Lougheed and District agricultural Fair, an annual highlight in a village with a population that hovers around 200, not including the district. But this urban ag extravaganza definitely was the biggest fair we’ve seen, not necessarily too surprising, given that the Greater Toronto Area reports a population of 5,555,912, including very few farmers. The farmers, like us, came in from out of town, and the townspeople came in from in. Oh yes, unlike the Lougheed Fair, this fair is an inside fair. Even though our day dawned crisp and bright, you’d probably never get that many people out to look upon livestock in a Toronto November.
There’s a lot to do at a fair that big, a lot we did not do. How much can you do in a single day? We drifted through the halls and barns as the hours drifted by. We lunched on lamburgers and Ukrainian pyroghy platters. We cheered for our side at the dog show, stepped off the path to give right-of-way to Holsteins with extended udders followed by bucket-bearing sanitary attendants,, watched a beauty contest where fancily dressed ladies led fancily dressed sheep, and learned about the horse breeding that produces creamy cremellos and smooth-riding paso finos. We saw 15-pound carrots, 20-pound parsnips, 60-pound beets and a pumpkin that claimed to weigh in at 1,177. We stood within arm’s reach at the edge of a practice ring where six-horse teams of giant draught horses clattered their shoes and pawed the air as they pulled their wagons. A maple syrup producer told us that you get a litre of syrup from the average maple tree. To get this syrup, you boil off 39 litres of water that is captured, clear and clean, then used to sterilize the equipment. You have to get the sap before the tree comes into bud. You have to have the right weather for that. Farming maple trees is like farming prairie grains in that way. You don’t control the weather. As evening advanced and we prepared to leave, a surprising thing happened. People in tuxedos and ball gowns came strolling in the blue-jeaned crowd. They had dressed up for the evening horse show. As far as I know, no tuxedos have ever been seen at the Lougheed Fair. Derek’s father took us out to dinner. It was late. We were hungry. And then it was after 10:30, time to leave the city.
The car was warm, quiet and dark. The younger generation did the driving.
Ruth said it was a funny thing to sit alert in the front seat after a long day out while your parents dozed off in the back. A new and interesting entry on the family page of life.

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