The Big E, and Reading About Twins

Babywearing at the Big E If you want a fried martini, a Philly cheesesteak, maple cotton candy, apple crisp and fresh cranberry juice all in one place, the Eastern States Exposition is the answer. You’ll also find hot tub displays, vendors selling magical steam cleaners, kids showing off their 4-H projects, sheep being sheared, chicks hatching from eggs, and sideshows featuring miniature horses and rescued bears–$1 per person to take a peek.

When we went to the Big E last year, I was 30 weeks pregnant with the twins. I basically stopped to sit and rest 10 minutes for every 15 that I walked. This year, I had one baby strapped to my front and a backpack with baby supplies on the back, while Manny carried the other twin.

So yesterday, the most frustrating part of the adventure wasn’t walking. It was trying to eat funnel cake while wearing a squirmy, greedy toddler on my front. I’m just going to let you try to imagine that one.

We watched a Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off, wandered through the huge buildings representing each state’s representative offerings (always including a wide array of maple products), and caught Marcus Gras beads thrown from a parade float drawn by Clydesdale horses.

The entire experience felt a little absurd.

But cool autumn breezes, babies’ wonder as they ogled the turns of the Ferris wheel, and the mingling aromas (well, some of them) made it worth the expedition.

Reading has taken such a backburner over the last year for obvious reasons. But a group of twin mamas I know on Facebook decided to start a book club, and the first book was something I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own.

Entwined is a memoir about fraternal friends, one of whom had Down syndrome, that were separated as young children when the parents sent the Down syndrome child to live in a state institution. That twin later went on to become a world-recognized fiber artist. The memoir is written by Judy, the sister that stayed at home, and follows both their story as it twists apart and then back together again later in life.

It was interesting to read about the incredibly unique connection the girls shared as twins. They communicated (rather well!) without needing words, which is handy, since Judy was completely nonverbal.

The story was both gripping and infuriating. Repeatedly I found myself thinking, How many horrible things can possibly happen to one person? The attitude toward children–especially special needs children–in the 50’s and 60’s was depressing at best, and these kids’ parents seemed particularly unable (unwillinrg?) to deal with the fact that they had procreated, and that one of their kids was unique.

But Joyce, the author of the book, was a bit infuriating, too. Sometimes she seemed rather oblivious (it took her 35 years to start thinking about taking her sister out of the institution) and dramatic (going to a “silence retreat” where a dozen women lived together for a week without saying a word). Still, the pieces of the picture she paints with words are so vivid that about two chapters in I felt like I was one of the kids playing in the front yard with them.

All in all, Entwined was definitely worth the read. Now I’m slowly reading Misspelled Paradise: A Year in a Reinvented Colombia, mostly because I’ll be in Colombia myself in a couple of weeks. So far, the account of a recent English grad going to teach at tiny a school on a little coastal island has many similarities to my own experience teaching in Saipan. It also makes me thankful I’m going to Colombia to be a tourist, not a teacher.

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