Bittersweet family memories
Although us kids have (long since, in my case) graduated from college and have careers now, each and every one of us still feels the "pull" each July. Most of us make it to the Fair at least once each year. Some of us now have kids in tow. A trip to the fair isn't quite complete until we have our fill of food and family complete with the family recipe of steak and sausage sandwiches smothered in sauce "gravy", onions and peppers smells like nostalgia to our crew and brings back sacred memories of Fair's past. We've been there as a family for nearly 50 years, so just about all the annual fair-goers knew my Grandfather (my grandmother died too young) or - if not - one of us.
This particular Fair week has been bittersweet for us. Tina and Jim made it to the front page of the paper with pictures and a great story about our family tradition of serving our community one sandwich at a time each year at the Saratoga County Fair. One for the family scrapbook!
Unfortunately, though, a dear family friend (one of my dad's best) passed away after a year-long battle with cancer this week. Kenny and my dad had known each other all their lives and still met for breakfast most Fridays - even after all these years (Kenny being gone will be hardest on him). It's not just the timing that made this Fair week bittersweet, it's the fact that Kenny was one of the "faces" of the Fair. In addition to knowing just about everyone, his family lives at the top of across from the entrance and each year since I've been alive, Kenny, his wife Marlene and their kids would park cars and greet visitors. Our families would meet EVERY YEAR for as long as I can remember. If we didn't see each other often, we knew that at least we run into them during Fair week. And, just about everyone knew Kenny. He was a really great guy. In fact, my husband and I were just saying a week ago that we'd see him "next week". When I heard he passed away early Monday morning - just one day before the Fair began, I wondered if he'd just had enough of parking cars. But if you knew Kenny, you'd know that there wasn't anything he enjoyed quite as much.
I remember thinking that very same thing about my grandfather the first year the Fair came around after he was gone. He enjoyed cutting peppers and onions and stirring sauce the way Kenny loved parking cars. I see that same love of family, friends and community in my Uncle now. It's part of who we are, I suppose. My husband and I will be bringing our son to the Fair this weekend. He can't wait to see the cows, go on rides and see Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Tina!
With family as in life, you've got to take the bitter with the sweet.