You were a small girl and the state fair concessionaire stands sold pink puffs of spun sugar in paper cones, mesh bags of tiny boiled red potatoes salted and buttered, paper containers filled with fried fat-bellied clams glistening with oil. Paper cups filled with lemonade made from a squeezed lemon stirred up with sugar and cold water.
Decades later you stand in your kitchen making lemonade in just that way: A single lemon, big spoonful of sugar, water cold from the tap. Stir.
Back then, in those state fair days, you wanted the world.
I don’t want to be normal, you used to think. Once you said it to your mother –I don’t want to be normal— helpless to explain what you meant, searching for the right word but not able to find it, then or now.
You wanted the world, the world, the world, all its oceans and continents, its mountains and valleys. Now you imagine your footprints, all the places you’ve been, all the faces you’ve beheld, all the days and nights of marvels.
So why is it that it’s a single afternoon at the New York State Fair you go back to, a single memory, you and your father, that man you were so often so afraid of but not on that day, not on that one day when you sat on a red stool beside him, under a red awning there at the fair, eating the salty buttered baby red potatoes, the fried clams that he treated you to?
You were seven, he was 31, and when you think of your panicky desire not to be normal, why is this what you remember?
Because that was the whole world, you hear a voice say, the whole world is everywhere, in every moment.