Saturday morning we drove south to the Puyallup Fair. We wandered happily through the barns, meeting Jacob Sheep and Zedonks  – two creatures I had never set eyes on before. We ate onion burgers and krusty pups (formerly known as corn dogs), cupcakes and funnel cakes, too. We entered the ‘Gross-Out’ tent, where you peer at the germs crawling over your hands there in the specially lit interior. You exit the tent under a shower of bubbles headed straight towards a hand-washing station. I laughed as I stood watching my three girls wash their hands with as much gusto as I’d ever seen, and thought  of my mother. She would have thought she’d died and gone to heaven – a place where everyone has clean hands all of the time and they serve scones!

Next we passed a camel riding ring. Katriel begged to take a ride, but it was too pricey, so instead we ushered her over to the pig pens full of rows of sleeping piglets. She peered down at the piggies wistfully. Right then a farmer (or some random guy dressed in jeans) entered the pen and scooped up a tiny, tan piglet. He held it out for Katriel to pet, and as he did so I could hear her asking him questions. The farmer said loudly, “Because this is my job, to take care of the pigs.” Katriel smiled up at him as she stroked that pig and gushed loud enough for me to hear, “You have a very lucky job!”

We let the girls go through the fun house, which lived up to its name, and walked past all the spinning frisbees, animal-print blankets, and juicers being sold in the outbuildings. Lastly, we bought them each a neon-colored bird puppet on strings, so the girls manually waddled their bird-like creatures back to the car, and life felt very fine indeed.

We then drove to Portland, where the girls ate dinner on Uncle Mark’s front lawn, across the street from the Swift Show. Swifts are birds that come to nest in the chimney still standing on the roof of Chapman Elementary School, a stone’s throw from my brother’s front window. The swifts swoop through the air in massive groups of up to 35,000 birds, eventually settling for the night in the chimney at Chapman, which houses the largest swift colony in the world. http://audubonportland.org/backyardwildlife/brochures/vauxsswift

Because of this once-a-year phenomenon, multitudes of people amass on the grassy field outside the school and watch the nigh-time acrobatics of the swifts. The tiny birds dive in and out of the chimney and outwit the lone falcons who swoop in to prey on them. It is a dazzling and mystic display, with the birds all moving in tandem at such high speeds.

The girls enjoyed the show, but the highlight of the evening was joining the hundreds of other kids sliding down the grassy hill on large pieces of cardboard. Children whooshed up and down, birds swirled overhead, and Mark, Damon, and I sipped wine and mused, “Yes, life is grand indeed!”

The next morning we met some of Uncle Mark’s friends at a local restaurant for Eggs Benedict and fresh hot cider served in fancy glass tumblers to one and all. After breakfast we drove towards  the ‘Avenue of Trees’ at the top of Skyline drive overlooking all of Portland. Here we entered Forest Park where we lost ourselves amidst the towering tumble of trees while the girls ran, full-speed, along the trail.

We looked for fairies and sang camping songs and Juliet said, “This is my favorite forest in the whole world. Let’s rename it Fairy Forest.” Katriel agreed and recalled the last time we’d been on that same path three years previously. Dumbfounded, Damon said, “How do you remember that? It was so long ago!” Katriel replied, “Because that was such a happy memory for me.”

At last we were worn out and headed back to Uncle Mark’s. The girls skipped over to the park to play their favorite pretend game of ‘Wild Cats’. Damon and I stayed inside to pack up. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the skies opened up with a rainstorm of such ferocious intensity that Uncle Mark went running out the door and across the street with rain jackets to shepherd the girls safely home.

Eventually the skies cleared and we set out for Seattle. But not before one last stop at Voodoo Donuts, the infamous pink donut store known  for its alternative donuts and world-famous maple-bacon bar.

As we savored our donuts the sun sank below the clouds and we inched closer to home. But I felt reluctant to let our weekend adventure come to a close. I turned to the girls to ask what their favorite part had been.

Katriel smiled wistfully, her mouth still ringed with donut, and said sweetly, “I almost rode a camel!”

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