Over the past weekend I found myself retracing my footsteps of twenty-eight years ago. It’s not hard to do in a small town and I’ve walked the same stretch countless times over the years, but only once a year is it with the same anticipation, the same destination. I look ahead and see the white tents and the temporary orange storm fencing encircling the perimeter of the lawn at the Library. It is the last Saturday of July and, like the past eighty-seven years, it is the Woodstock Library Fair, and townspeople pour into town; to support the library, yes, but mostly because it’s fun.
Traffic, a word we don’t often employ in the small town, is steady and purposeful, folks searching for a parking space on the narrow Tinker Street or down a lazy little side lane, their heads craning back and forth, spinning at awkward angles in case they miss something, then folding quickly into empty spots, feeling like they’d hit the jackpot in a casino.
The day is hot and sunny, flowers leaning over in their summer zeal, the sidewalk is busy, all of us striding in the same direction: little girls in princess dresses, a familiar grandfather I know to be a gifted guitarist, walking proudly behind his two small grandsons as they skip happily towards the white tents; couples with young kids; single women of many ages, couples holding hands. We could be like Christmas shoppers streaming towards a holiday sale, high hopes intact.
I pass the funeral home and am jettisoned back to a star filled night when I lay in a field behind the large rambling house, the largest on Tinker Street, with a man whose voice was like creamy butter, soft velvet, deep colors of magenta and gold. He could recite poetry, long memorized, and often did. The sky was black as ink and the air a perfect cricket-filled container for idle and romantic meanderings. Nights like those no longer exist since the tick invasion; that long ago field at night held no terror. I’m grateful I knew a world before ticks dictated our recreational habitat.
Twenty eight years ago, a newcomer in town, I’d walked quickly, my step lighter, my thoughts too. I dressed in vintage plaid, a sassy dress with a belted waist. In strappy platform sandals I walked airily down to the library, cash in my pocket, excited to attend my first library fair that I’d heard about. Mostly I looked forward to stocking up for my vintage shoppe at the rummage (roo-mage) tent I’d heard so much about. The Fair cost one dollar to get in then; today it is two dollars.
Nearing the white tent this past Saturday, I hear music, see the children walking around the maypole, little girls in flowy dresses, pastels and whites, with ribbons in their soft hair.
I head to the book barn first and fill my bag till I can’t fit or carry more, then drift onto the front lawn, letting my nose guide me to the tent where I’ll find cold sesame noodles with chicken, greeting townspeople along the way that I’ve known for years, close and not so close. There are nods and smiles and an unspoken sense of “isn’t this fun”?