The Big Five-O

On my 50th birthday this year, on April 6th, I decided to do something that I hadn’t done in, easily, a decade; go to the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

This is a once a year type Agricultural event where farmers come to the city to show off their best animals and try to win awards.  Breeders and trainers will boast their chicken, dog or cat is the best and only a blue ribbon from the judges can satiate their pride. Businesses show off their newest products, and any TV character that matters has a showbag in the showbag pavilion, from Dr. Who to Superman.  Popular toys like Barbie and favourite radio stations like Triple M also seem to have show bags and most contain the same content; backpacks, caps, mugs, with the logo of whatever that showbag is highlighting plus the occasional bonus extras from pens to sunglasses to goodness knows what.  When I was a child, showbags cost as little as 15 cents each, but nowadays, they average between $15 – $30 depending on what one buys.  Back then, we could grab every showbag and have change left over, and there would be about 20 bags to choose from.  Nowadays, a person wanting to buy up all the showbags might have to mortgage their house with easily over 100 bags on display.

But the show isn’t just about the bags or the farm animals, although that’s what the majority go for.  There are carnival rides for all ages and side show alley that contains cheat filled games and at one time, the freaks.  When I was a child, there used to be a lot of side show freaks, the headless person who’s brain was in a jar and still managed to keep the person alive, Siamese twins, the tallest or shortest person (depending on the year you went), the fattest person (If they still had this at the show, I’m pretty sure I could qualify for this job now), bearded lady and countless other “freaks” but people caught on that it was all done with mirrors and/or trickery and lost interest and over time, those side show freaks stopped appearing until it was just the animals, rides and showbags.  The  main arena often has amazing displays of various performances including things like the re-enactment of the Man from Snowy River performance (a personal favourite, as I LOVE this poem)  to Monster Truck or marching draft horses.  Depending on the year, a variety of other shows have appeared in the Main Arena at the show.

In one pavilion, produce is also often put on display, showing off our farmers best produce, also waiting to be judged, and the local (to the farmer) school kids who are often proud of the displays they make using the produce; amazingly beautiful country scenes where a house is made from nuts, the pathway lined with fruit and even the scene that accentuates the background although appearing painted, is often hand made using a variety of grains produced at those farms.  Here are some examples of the produce display at the show:

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In another pavilion, commerce takes over and women can get a variety of showbags that highlight various popular Women’s magazines, my personal favourite bag that I managed to buy was the Australian Woman’s Weekly.  Another favourite was Country Living; both had great value for money. There are bags for every thing everywhere you go, for men, and lifestyle obsessed people including cooking and fashion.

In yet another pavilion that I couldn’t find this year (there are 13 pavilions in all, but with my disability, I could only manage 2 of them), are a display of our Defence forces from our Aussie soldiers and Navy to the police, ambulance and every other service out that that we rely on when in need of assistance.

Amongst the others, from memory, and one that I regret not finding this year is the petting zoo containing the baby farm animals and the smaller breeds.  Small kids love to come here, and admittedly so do I, just to sit and admire all the 4-legged babies.  I remember one year I went and on a large display table, a 3 foot slide would lead to a tiny little wading pool sized pond, and little ducklings would climb up the ladder just to slide down into the pool, quack a few times, then waddle back around the ladder to do it all again.  Oh the cacophony of quacks from the hundreds of ducklings on this barnyard door sized table, the cheeps from equally as many chicks in another display and all the sounds one could hear coming from a farm.  Suffice it to say, it’s far from the quietest exhibitions at the show, but even this gets drowned out by the kids and teens as they go spinning around and upside down on the various crazy rides only a few hundred metres away.

So you can imagine my excitement on the morning of the 6th, or at least, the excitement of my inner child, and she made herself well known on this morning.  But then, she has always seemed to make herself heard every year around this time, not just for the fact that it’s Easter and the Show is at the top of everyone’s thoughts, but also because my birthday often falls on or around Easter… bonus when it happens at the same time the show is open.  When I was young, I’d milk my birthday for all it was worth, as a child, going to every stall and telling them it was my birthday on that day (if I was there on the 6th) hoping for an extra treat.  The younger I was, the more it worked, as I grew into my preteen years, this worked less and less.

In my adult years, at Easter, my inner child would nag and plead and beg for me to go to the show, and I struggle every year to tell her no because I just can’t afford it.  The show gets more and more expensive every year.  It was different when I was a child, for starters, my mum would take me, she would cover the costs, (as mothers do) and we managed to go every year for the first decade because the show was still affordable to the average person.

But nowadays, the show is not a place for paupers, not if you want to eat or drink there, let alone by a show bag, go on a ride or enjoy the main event in the arena.  So from about my late 20s onward, I had to cut back my visits to the show.  No longer could I go every year, which would break my heart, and more often that not, I had to force that inner child in me to stay quiet no matter what, but when that inner child is acting like a famished caged lion, it’s really hard to keep her quiet.  Finally, I managed to compromise, “everything we can buy at the show can be bought at the local shops” or I’d bribe her with presents.  “How about if I buy this new kitchen appliance instead, or that book,” or, “You’ve been really good this year, how about I spend $100 on clothing” and eventually I’d calm that inner child down with promises of all the chocolates she could eat, junk food and whatever appliance I’ve desperately needed but staved off buying due to limited budget.  It didn’t matter what I bought outside of the show, it would have been loads cheaper than actually going to the show.  So for a decade this worked.

But then my 50th birthday happened.  And only a couple days before, I learn that the show this year will open ON my birthday.  That was the last straw.  My inner child hollered and screamed and begged and pleaded and the internal ruckus started.  I admit, I gave in.  She had a point.  I was turning 50!  A well rounded number like this only appears twice a century, I can’t let this birthday pass by the wayside without doing what I loved to do so many times as a child, and that was to go to the Easter Show.

There was one teensy problem.  Something which my inner child didn’t think about.

I sensed I might have problems though, so as the morning arrived and my inner child was carrying on with, “Yaaaayyy!!  We’re going to the Easter Show!  I’m gonna eat everything and ride everything and buy every show bag and go everywhere…”

I replied with, “…no you won’t..”

The body that last took me to the show wasn’t the body I had now.  That body worked perfectly, it would automatically walk without me thinking about it, I could walk around the show quite a few times despite the fact that the show itself is the size of a small country town. Since my last visit, my legs had blown up with the condition lymphoedema, better known as elephantiasis.  So now, I not only had to contend with the amount of walking I had to do, but to do all this with legs that often felt like I had large sacks of potatoes wrapped around each leg, as that’s how heavy they feel every day of my life.

To get from my place to the bus, then the bus to the train, then at another station, switching from one train to another but first walking a mile of platform (not exaggerating) to do so, then another mile at the other end (again not exaggerating) to get from the train to the front entrance of the show, and that was the closer entrance!  The main entrance was another mile away, but I cheated and bought a member’s ticket so I didn’t have to walk any further, so instead of the entry fee costing me $30, the entry fee cost me approx. $150.  But it was worth it saving me that extra walk.

It was a challenge, but I’d made it to the Easter Show!  It took a lot of walking, and I was exhausted, but I was there!  Now I counted on my inner child to take over so I could just let go of all the pain I had created, and I could sit back (in my mind anyway) and enjoy the show from a young person’s perspective again.

What was I thinking!  Of course that wasn’t going to happen.  The inner child tried to drag me to the showbag pavilion, but I ended up walking in another direction.  I manage to buy one of the showbags on my list from a supermarket pavilino and as soon as I collected the bag, which weighed about 5 kgs (approx. 11 pounds) with all it’s contents, my mind ran through the list of bags I had planned to buy, about 20 in all, costing easily about $300.

Not gonna happen.

I finally convince the inner child she didn’t need all the bags she wanted to get and her attitude was, “well if that’s how it’s going to be, I’m heading home, see you later!”

Oh damn!  As I mindfully spy my inner child happily jog in the direction of the exit, I realise I’m stuck.  Here I am with a (now) 50 year old body, in a world of pain, and the mentality of the inner child not there any more to give me the added energy I desperately needed to get me through the day.

With the bag bought, I had lunch before deciding what to do and said to myself, “I don’t need the inner child, I can do this!  I did this in the past, I can do it again even without the immortal attitude and energy levels that a preteen would feel, so this 50 year old is carrying on despite everything.  I CAN do this!”

So I headed back into the pavilion I was in, checked out everything, managed to get into the 2nd pavilion, even to the other end where the pets were, and bought some home made dog treat delicacies for my girls.  I was delighted about this achievement as I’d promised my two seniors that I would bring them home something special.  But once I had bought these treats, I was in a world of pain and pushing the threshold of my physical limitations, and there was still the walk to the gate, now quite a fair distance away, then the station and all the transports back home.

I could see my inner child, by now, at home, napping or checking out FB as I cursed her all the way home, fighting tears because I literally had to manually will my legs to move as they had stopped working.  My body, at that moment, could easily have been compared to that of a vehicle with a loose wire somewhere so that the motor wasn’t communicating with the rest of the body.

I finally did make it home and for the next week I vowed to send my body to Coventry, and too, my inner child!  How dare she leave me!  Abandoning me in the middle of the show because she didn’t get all that she wanted!

My inner child didn’t care that I wasn’t speaking to her.  She was relatively happy as she got to experience the show again, albeit briefly, and she got about 4 showbags out of it.  To compensate for the failure to buy any chocolate based showbags, I bought some Easter chocolates from the local supermarkets, and because this was the big 5-0, I even splurged and bought myself a new kitchen appliance.

My legs, I eventually forgave a couple days later.  Kind of hard to not communicate with them when I need them to carry me through the house and everywhere else, and they couldn’t help, with their disability, causing me so much grief.  Despite not manually working, they did ultimately get me home, I didn’t collapse in the middle of the street which would have caused me more embarrassment than the level of grief and pain I was going through.

And when my friends asked me, “How was the show?” I told them, “I enjoyed it, best day ever!  Really loved everything.” And started to erase the memory of all the pain I had to deal with out of my mind.  A couple of weeks on, and I think I can start believing in that fib now that the memory of the physical pain I had to deal with on the day is slowly dwindling away.

If the inner child nags and screams about going to the show next year, I’m going to have to come up with a different way of dealing with the show… even if I have to hire a motorised wheelchair!  This way, if she abandons me again, I’ll be ready!

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