I love the CNE. I love the sights, the sounds, the Belgian strawberry waffle with ice cream and strawberries-I love to people watch, to snoop in the buildings, watch silly people scare themselves witless on rides while I sit and watch. I love the CNE.
When I lived in Toronto, I would take myself down to the fair in town every year. I hopped the King streetcar and got off at the Dufferin Gate. I'd spend the day wandering the fairgrounds and I would visit the Arts and Crafts building and the international pavilion, indulge in my strawberry waffle, visit the Hershey booth, the Billy Bee Honey booth and the Tetley tea booth, get my tarot cards read by a grizzled old gypsy in the horse building, pet a couple of velvety horse noses and head for home happy and broke. When I started dating my husband, I introduced him to my CNE ritual, and we've extended it to our daughter.
The first year we took the Kid to the CNE, she was around 18 months old. We stayed until the lights came on on the midway and she was hooked. Her head swivelled so fast from left to right I was afraid of whiplash. "Oh, pretty. oh pretty..." was all she kept saying. When she was little, rides were easy. Now that she's older, fearless and taller, going to the CNE or any midway requires the negotiation skills of a UN envoy. She loves rides. I don't.
I was the person who held the bags and purses at Canada's Wonderland while everyone else hit the roller coasters. I was the person who stayed in the lobby of the Empire State Building when everyone else rode to to the top. I used to be able to do any ride that spins, as long as it stays relatively on the ground. I don't do roller coasters, I don't do heights, and I don't do 3-D or IMAX. After a couple of sessions of whiplash, I can no longer do spinny rides too well. My husband doesn't do spin, but doesn't mind heights or roller coasters. We have a kid who loves rides. Trade offs and negotiating are now a huge part of our day and I have been known to exercise the Mom Veto on rides that will take 20 years off my life if my kid goes on them. Drop Zone at Marineland received the "over my dead, bleeding body" Mom Veto.
Imagine my Kid's surprise and delight, then, when I agreed to take her on the Polar Express. I used to LOVE the Polar Express, or Music Express or any other variation of the ride where you sit and go backwards in a hilly circle while they play music that muffles the screams. "Do you want to go faster?" "YES" "Do you want to go FASTER?" "YES"... I agreed to take my kid on the ride. "Really, mommy? REALLY We can go on the ride? REALLY? Let's GO!"
A car accident in 2002 resulted in a misdiagnosed cracked hip and lower leg. I walked on it for months before a bone scan revealed the then-healed cracks. It's left me with osteo-arthritis in my hip that causes some mobility challenges. I'm also significantly heavier than previous years. But my kid was already running up the ramp to find a seat in a ride I wasn't sure how I was going to get into. Onward.
The ride started and I tried my best not to squish my kid as centrifuge tried to send me to the other side of the cart. We both laughed our heads off on the ride and it was just as I remembered. I felt a bit queasy, but it was manageable. The music really hadn't changed much in 30 years. It was pulsing and loud and mercifully, over quickly.
When the ride stopped, I was leaning backwards low to the ground and my knees were higher than my head. And I was stuck. I couldn't slide forward enough to use my good leg to stand up. I couldn't swivel around to use both legs to stand, and I couldn't stand from the angle I was sitting in because of my gimpy hip and my weight. I was stuck. I tried various combinations to disembark before flagging down one of the buff young carnies, swallowing my pride and asking for help. He grabbed my outstretched hand, heaved me out and I waddled off the ride, my dignity cowering behind me, tail between her legs.
I vetoed a second trip on the ride, but the Kid was still happy. Mommy had kept her promise and took her on the Polar Express. I soothed my dignity with a deluxe strawberry waffle with chocolate, ice cream AND whipped cream. And we all went home happy and broke.