June 5th, 2006 —
Some Things Never Change
The grass always seemed greener in Blauvelt, New York. It was a green I’d never see again in my life. Well, maybe once, the color of a rich, dark, emerald I saw in Cozumel came close but in my mind, I’ve never been able to see that lush color jade since the last time I went to the fair. The packed blades always felt velvety soft gliding across my bare feet when I walked from one booth to the next. Since that last time, I’ve never been able to stroll barefoot on grass again. It just doesn’t feel the same and I detest that something so good at one time in my young life would have a different texture to it now. I almost feel as if I’m being unfaithful to that grass.
Each year, the parishioners of our church would get together for weeks during the summer to prepare for the big fair in Blauvelt, New York; the week before classes were to begin, I could sense the excitement every where I turned. Our apartment building was right across the courtyard to the rectory of the church and the landlord of our building gave the church permission to use the courtyard to store items, prepare booths and set up a few things before the fair at Blauvelt. I used to sit by the tiny kitchen window which didn’t seem so tiny to me back then, and look out to see all the hands at work. I loved how everyone was vigorously putting together booths, toys, rides, you name it, and they were doing it, right in my own backyard. I didn’t know what was more exciting; watching the fair being put together or the fair itself.
It’s funny how I can’t remember exactly what my parents did at the fair. I remember they ran a few booths, and I recollect feeling so grown up as I collected the money to put in an old Tiparello Cigar box. I knew that box came from Cuba because a friend of ours had just come downstairs to our apartment for a visit and handed the box to my dad. He looked so sad that day and I couldn’t stay in the living room as the rule of the house was no children present when adults were talking. I knew in the very next room he’d be sharing the reason for his sadness. My curiosity was as big as my day dreaming and it was always getting me into some kind of trouble. My parents had a thing about children being around adults when they were talking, so it was a given that once we saw an adult in the house, we’d say our proper hello’s and then retreat to our rooms. I tiptoed to the edge of the bedroom door, peeked in and found a safe place to lean against. I over heard him saying something about a dictator and how he had to leave with what little he could grab and as I was inching closer to hear more because his voice grew lower in tone, my sister squealed like the little snitch she always was in the guise of being the good and well behaved daughter, and told my parents I was standing behind the door. Of course I called her a liar and told them I was on my way to the kitchen to watch the parishioners getting ready for the fair. I barely made it before my mom smacked me in the ass but not before I gave my sister the finger and for more dramatic flair, I stuck out my tongue at her. As I turned to walk away, I made the fast sign of the cross ending it with the kiss to my fingertips. I don’t know why the Latino people do that but it always seemed to make me feel as if kissing my fingers tips got me one step closer to God’s favor. And because I had just flipped the bird to my sister and stuck out my tongue which was a big no no in my family, making the sign of the cross with kissing fingertips erased all the bad stuff I had just done. Hey, I was a kid back then, I believed every thing and was the princess of gulibility. I found my seat near the window and began to get lost in all the hammering, humming and music from the courtyard below. I counted the days when I would be at the fair. Everything always seemed to be okay at the fair. I didn’t care about school starting soon after, summer ending or wearing that scratchy long skirted uniform. The fair to me was another world and I wanted to turn around from my seat in the kitchen and tell Mr. Cigar man not to worry about that dictator person; he would be just fine as long as he came to the fair. The fair was magic. It was another world far from the one we had no choice to live in.
There is something about county fairs that just makes me feel all good and giddy inside. Looking back, the Blauvelt festivities weren’t such a grand thing. It only had home made booths and some cheesy kid games that made you spend more money than the item you won was worth. The rides were nothing like the rides in today’s carnivals but back then, it seemed so supreme to me. There was something so enchanting and so alive about it all. In my world of day dreams, this was the one thing that was real to me and it captivated me for many years to come. The sky was always a clear blue. A blue just like my green grass, a blue I’ve never seen again. The trees were mighty and tall and when the wind blew, their branches danced in unison and stopped when the wind changed direction to dance once again to another melody. I used to lay down on the grass when it was break time and just stare up at the sky, willing the blue to move over a bit so that I could see the stars. Of course that never happened until I’d close my eyes and see them in my minds eye and wouldn’t you know, just as the stars were glistening in the middle of my deep azure sky, swaying to the rhythm of the dancing trees, there was that same familiar squeal. It was my sister, once again upset that I was enjoying something she couldn’t quite understand. She was always being the big sister even though technically there were two others before her. But once they left home to start their own lives, I guess she felt in control and that gave her a feeling of owning me. It upset her any time I wasn’t doing what was expected of me, even if I had just finished doing my homework, cleaning my room or any other chores my mother had given me to do. If I was laying out on my bed reading something other than a school book or watching another Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny cartoon, she’d be livid. It’s as if enjoying life for her was a big sin. I don’t think she knew how to relax, it seemed she always had to be “in charge.” That’s probably the only way she felt real. I don’t know what her problem was and I didn’t care. All I knew was that in Blauvelt, on that day, and every year that we went, no amount of squealing on me could change what I could see and feel. My blue sky was my castle, my dancing trees were my neigbors and my azure grass was my playground.
I raised my hand to cover the sun that got in my eyes and distorted my sister’s face, and I looked up at her. I asked her to join me; to lie down with me and see what I could see. I thought to myself if she could experience the colors, the texture and the magic, she might not be so inclined to squeal on me all the time. She thought I was being foolish and turned to walk away.
“I’ll give you five minutes before I go tell mom and dad you are day dreaming again. FIVE MINUTES!” she growled as she held up her hand making sure I understood what five minutes were. I laid back down, started counting my 300 seconds, while looking at the sky above me. I closed my eyes and saw my dancing stars, the blue of the sky mixing with the green of my grass and I danced along with them. I knew this would have to end soon but I was okay with that as the fair was about to open to the crowd in town and as much as I loved my private little world in Blauvelt, I loved the feel of the people, the electricity of delight and the merriment. It was a nice trade for a few hours. I never felt bad about leaving my little world because I knew I’d be back again in a few months. One the fair was over, the anticipation for the next one kept my imagination alive.
The fair went on for years. I can’t remember when they stopped having them. But I do recall being asked to go back and visit Blauvelt after I graduated from high school. Everyone thought I’d jump at the chance because I loved the place so much but I knew that it had changed. You just know these things. When you live in a city as big as New York you can see the change around you. I knew I wouldn’t see my home made booths, I wouldn’t experience my rides, and I wouldn’t feel my trees or the grass. Part of my excitement when I was younger was watching the fair come alive in my own backyard. That backyard was now someone’s condo and I didn’t want that memory to be destroyed. I knew all that I had experienced in my younger days was gone and I wanted the memory that lived with me for all these years to stay just the way I remembered it back then. I heard about the changes that had taken place in Blauvelt. I knew it had to happen one day but regardless of the new homes and the malls and the highways, regardless of the fact that my dancing trees were probably gone and my grass wasn’t so green, and my sky wasn’t so blue, in my mind, I knew they’d always be the same. In my heart Blauvelt would still be my own little world. And as for my sisters squeal, some things never change.
Copyright © 2006 by Sonia Agron
Word count – 1804