The house I grew up in is next to the town playing field. There are two baseball diamonds, swings, a teeter –totter, tennis courts, and a mini-basket ball court. Not bad for a tiny town that doesn’t even have a stoplight to call its own.
There were a few advantages to living next to the playing field. When I had my disastrous foray into softball, my mother didn’t have to drive me to practices. It also makes for a very convenient place to play Frisbee.
There are also awful things about growing up next to the town gathering place. Like the boys from the baseball team peeing in your yard when the porta potties get too gross to be considered fit for human use. And then there are the town events: the riding lawn mower race being a true cultural phenomenon. But the one that gave me my very first nervous breakdown was the polka festival.
It happened when I was little, about four-years-old. The whole playing field was taken over by polka music playing so loudly there was no escape. I live in a very large house. It’s actually an Inn. But no matter where my pudgy little legs ran, there was no escaping the constant music. And it didn’t last for just a few hours. No. It was a full weekend affair. Everywhere I went I could hear it. And,1, 2, 3, and, 1, 2, 3. Over and over. Pounding into my little head.
Finally, on the last day of the festival, it was too much. I snapped. My mother found me in one of the guest rooms curled up behind a chair, rocking in time to the music and crying. She tried to comfort me, but I could still hear the music. So, she did the best thing she could think of. She packed my sister and me into the car and took us to the movies. We did a double feature that day. I don’t remember what we saw, but at least there was no polka music. By the time we got home, the festival was gone, and I was safe.
It took me years to be able to listen to polka music without panicking. It wasn’t until I was twenty-two and working in a mansion doing living history and was able to polka in a ball gown in a ballroom that I really begin to appreciate the music… in very small doses.