The parking lot is full of teenagers on parade and minivans loading or unloading hordes of families. It's very festive and, I'm surprised to admit, exciting. The Ferris wheel reaches way into the sky, and my six-year-old, Sammy, eyeballs it warily. "We don't have to go on that ride, do we mommy?" No way, pal, I tell him. We're going to stay on the ground.
Through the gates we go to buy tickets and immediately load up on soda, cotton candy, and elephant ears. And snow cones. Our little two-year-old has fallen asleep and miraculously stays that way in his stroller despite the roaring music and screams. Sammy, sticky from cotton candy, takes a ride on a mini roller coaster, a supposedly gentle ride with loud 1980s hair-band music playing. My husband and I join the assembly of proud parents lined up next to the wobbly, rusty gate with our video cameras, waving as our children pass. Sam looks a bit freaked out, but he smiles and waves as he goes by.
We run into lots of other families from Sam's school, and we also see his preschool teacher from a few years ago. It's a happy but brief reunion. Sam is impatient to move on.