Normally, we wouldn't dare try to do such a potentially overwhelming outing with just two adults and all three kids but, hey, the price was right, so we thought we'd give it a try. We got there extra early, like we were told, and stood in line, waiting to get in.
The interesting thing is that it also happened to be senior day at the fair so we were standing for a good amount of time under the already hot sun in a line with only seniors and groups which included many individuals with special needs. There was a large class of autistic teens from a local high school. The atmosphere was an eclectic blend of excitement and crotchetyness. My husband wisely elected to stay in the car with Josh while I kept our place in line with the girls.
At one point, the sun and the waiting got to be too much for an autistic kid behind us. He was about 9 years old, about the same as our Josh. I could tell he was on the brink of having a full blown tantrum. I could feel the panicky, desperate energy of the parents, who were trying to calm him down. I noticed that the kid's two older sisters immediately went into "helping out" mode, offering him water and candy if he would calm down. How profoundly familiar it all was to me.
As the child behind us was spiraling into a full blown, screaming, kicking, hitting, spitting melt down, an elderly woman, who was standing in front of us, said to me, "You might want to explain what's happening to your daughters or else they might be scared." I turned to look at the woman and could not stifle a laugh. It actually (unfortunately) came out as a cross between a chortle and a snort.
"Oh, they have a brother who has autism." I explained. "My girls are used to this kind of thing."
One look at my girls proved that they were not concerned in the least about what was going on. They were not scared, intrigued, or interested in what was happening behind us in the least. To them, it was as if this type of thing happened all the time. This kid having a tantrum of grand proportions was as interesting as a slight change in the breeze, almost imperceptible, especially in light of the fact that the line to their first trip to the fair was finally beginning to move.
We quickly texted their dad so that he and Josh could join us. When they did, we who were in line, were funneled into a tented area where several lines became one small, slow moving line so that bags and backpacks could be checked. This set up seemed ridiculous to me. You take a bunch of special needs kids, most of whom have sensory issues, AND elderly people, and make them move very slowly through a crowded, smelly, loud tent area. Who thought of this? I was beginning to feel very anxious that it was going to be my son's turn to have a meltdown.
However, Josh (and most of the other folks with special needs around us) did great. I think everyone was just so excited to get in. You could smell the cotton candy and the fried food. You could see glimpses of the ferris wheel. You could hear the carnivally music . . . and the line was moving, albeit slowly.
As my attitude changed from mom-anxiety to appreciation for the moment, I noticed something else. Everyone in that tent, in that line looked so human, so natural, almost organic. It was not a beautiful, Hollywood crowd waiting to get into the county fair. It was mostly senior citizens and kids with special needs. Folks had globs of sunscreen that were not rubbed in fully and most of us were already sweaty. People don't go to the county fair to dress to impress or for success. You dress for comfort and to have a good time. You are likely to just look like who you are.
I had the thought that if I were to paint a picture of a line of people waiting to get into heaven, it might look a lot like this. I know that others have pictured it as people dressed in white with shiny wings or something but, in that moment, I thought that by the time you live your life and die and are waiting to get into heaven, your appearance would probably reflect the sufferings, the humanness, and the brokenness that you had experienced as a person on earth. It would be a time to cast aside the fashion, make up and false images that cover up our true selves. We would be free to just be who we were . . . but there would be no shame. Just excitement about what you are about to experience once you get in.