I had one of those ephemeral moments yesterday where I was suddenly lifted out of myself, just for a few seconds of pure joy.

We were at the PNE*, damp and sodden after watching the parade in the rain. As we fought our way through the crowd wandering up the parade route in search of cover, Dean was pushing MonkeyBoy in the stroller a few steps behind Chickadee and me. The music was still blasting from the loud speakers, and we were skipping along to the beat, hand in hand, doing can-can steps around the puddles. And I realized, out of the blue, that I was completely and perfectly happy.

Even now, I can pull up a crystal-clear memory of the feeling, and it warms me right through. It's a gift we're not often granted (or, perhaps, are too busy to appreciate). I'm going to try to notice more often.


*The PNE will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter what they do to it in the name of progress or civic renewal. My grandfather was the General Manager back in its heyday in the 60's and 70's (he was coooool, I tell ya. He even got to meet Sonny & Cher!). We used to come out every summer from Montreal, to visit my grandparents and my 4 cousins from California, and the highlight of the trip was our day at the fair. We'd arrive early, before the gates opened, and leave after dark. The last, best year I was 9. The 5 oldest kids (ages 11, 10, 9, 8 and 7) were turned loose with 5 bucks each (back when candy apples were 50 cents each, and cotton candy a quarter), probably 2 or 3 hundred rides' worth of tickets (seriously - the ride passes were printed on red card stock, each good for 10 rides, and we had a stack at least an inch thick), and instructions to meet our parents for dinner. We covered every square inch of that fair, then had dinner at the Dogwood cafeteria followed by front row seats at whatever the evening's entertainment was (nothing memorable, obviously, unless it was Ice Capades - I remember sitting behind Karen Magnussen's parents during one of her shows). We finished off the evening with a stroll down the midway, where we each got to choose whichever of the giant prizes we wanted. My grandfather would point, and the carnie would haul down a giant turtle or bear or rabbit and hand it over. My poor parents had to fly 3 enormous stuffed animals back to Montreal.

The PNE has gone downhill since then, and that's not just old age and nostalgia talking. A good third of the site has been turned into parkland (a good thing, really, just not for the 2 weeks of the fair), and it's no longer the big agricultural draw it used to be. It used to be THE livestock show for the province; now they have representative farm species for the city kids who never get to see a live cow. The lumberjack show and demolition derby have been replaced by monster trucks and motorcross. A lot of the permanent exhibits are gone, too, like the Hall of Mirrors and the Funhouse, and the seatbelt-free skyride that used to run from one end of the park to the other (it was a great way to find people if you got separated - unless they were indoors, your odds of spotting them were excellent, and then you could bellow down at them in hopes of scaring them into dropping their snow cone). But they still have the Showmart, with the guys selling Miracle Shammies and the Slicer/Dicer/Chopper/Hacker things, and the knives that will cut cans AND tomatoes. And the Superdogs, and the pig races, and the little donuts and Buckeye Root-beer and Aunt Margie's fudge. And the Agrodome still smells of horses and sawdust, even though the equine entertainment didn't make it across the border this year.

To be honest, I don't go to the PNE every year to see what's new, I go to see what's old. I always wander past Grandpa's office, even though he retired in '77, and make sure the games arcade is still standing. Next year I'll take Chickadee on the rickety wooden roller coaster - it's a museum piece, but it still runs. I just hope we pick a drier day next time.