Mar 31, 2011

A Family. A Fair.

The Medieval Fair starts tomorrow in Norman, our home town. Chris and I will probably take Charlie along with my mom.

We'll eat some roasted corn. Listen to the bagpipes. Visit the mermaid's keep. Cheer on a joust. Wash down a humongous turkey leg or a piping hot meat pie with blue-glass bottle of sasparilla. Smirk at fifty-something fat friars with suspiciously modern Birkenstocks and middle aged wrinkled wenches getting sunburned cleavage on this first weekend of spring. Roll our eyes at fourteen-year old girls with fairy wings and glitter eyeshadow and their skinny pimply-faced boy counterparts trailing behind in dangerously tight leather pants and open-laced pirate shirts.

You know, like normal people do when they go to a Ren Fair. (That's insider lingo for Renaissance Fair. Why am I using insider lingo you ask? Um... well.... )


Yes, it's true. That's Donny the magician's squire (or something like that) in the foreground. And Kathleen the court jester in the background. Juggling. On a guy's shoulders.

When Kathleen and Donny were tweens (that was before they called them that) they were completely drawn in to the cloak-wearing, dagger-yielding, ye-olde-fake-accent-speaking world of Medieval Fair.

They belonged to a group (The Arthurian Order of Avalon to be precise) that practiced jousting and sword fighting and juggling and (okay, yes, role playing) year 'round in people's backyards or in the community rooms at the library or veteran's centers, or sometimes even on nature expeditions. But it all culminated with the Medieval Fair every spring.



Look at that cute little mouse on the end of Donny's staff (do you see it?!)

Our mom sewed so many awesome costumes for Donny and Kathleen over the years. And as they grew up, so did their characters. Kathleen was only a jester from about age nine to eleven. Then she was sort of like a little rascally tomboyish maid. But the last year she participated in the fair she had the most gorgeous Anne Boleyn costume. It was dark blue velvet and white silk and lace with tons of beading and detailing and that sucker was corseted on her so tight (and she was a complete waif) that she looked like a living doll. It was breathtaking really. I think she rode in on like a white horse even.

But Donny really grew up with Med Fair and the friends he made there. For years he just played the fool. He was always the court jester. The older boys, the more athletic boys (and don't let my skinny pimply-face comments above fool you, there were "golden" boys even in this Dungeons & Dragons circle of friends), like the Achemire brothers for example, blue eyed, bawdy, sulky, mysterious, beautiful boys who stole the heart of every girl, prancing in on their horses with chain mail and wooden shields and real swords and re-enacting these sweeping dramas for the crowd.

Meanwhile Donny the jester is practicing, practicing, practicing. Learning to juggle heavy knives and catch an apple in his teeth. Learning to breath actual fire. His sweet jester role soon evolved into the Evil Jester. The Arthurian group always does a living life-size chess match at every fair. There is the black and the white. Donny in tattered brocade and long black tresses, always did an impressive fire-breathing move as he took one of the white queen's pawns.

But on one of the later years, I think Donny was sixteen, one of the golden boys, was it an Achemire? Perhaps. He had a bloody accident in the joust earlier that morning. Like he broke his finger or something like that. And he was playing freakin' Lancelot (one of the star roles) in the chess match performance that afternoon.

Everyone was in a tizzy, the middle-aged wenches, the fat friars, the school-girl crush maids who could barely look up as they flocked around the Achemire, dressing his wounds, but all the same, joined the question... what would we do? Who could possible fill in for Lancelot, he had like 50 lines, plus three crucial elaborately choreographed fights!

And Donny piped up... "I can do it." He had been to every practice, watched every fight and heard every line from his jesters' spot for weeks. "Surely not shy Donny?" everyone thought.

But Donny. Literally. Slayed it. He came to life in front of the crowd. He nailed the lines. He swung that freaking sword. He wowed the onlookers with their roasted corn in one fist and turkey legs in the other. But mostly he wowed his peers. They talked about Donny all the rest of the day, and the rest of the month. "Who would have known?"

Donny was a golden boy, too. Just of a darker variety.

But of everyone, our mom was the proudest. Did I mention, um... so yeah, she was sort of like the queen.


The Dark Queen, of course. Hey, if she's going to put in the man hours making all those costumes, she might as well get one herself! She could even fight with a staff! Plus the Arthurians really needed some adult chaperones. I mean, fourteen year olds? Fairy wings and glitter? Tight leather pants. It's like pre-Twilight hormonal craziness, but I'm pretty sure those kids weren't as abstaining as much as Edward and Bella.


Donny, Mom (before she went all dark) and John (the youngest of the two Achemire boys, and Donny's first true best friend.)


We even pulled our Aunt Lynda and our little wood-nymph cousin Kaitlyn into the act one year. Lynda was fittingly earthy, Kaitlyn had a real bunny in a basket.

Why no pictures of me in this royal picture? Um, yeah, I was nerdy enough already. I didn't need any more help! Honestly, it was the age thing. When Kathleen and Donny first got involved they were still practically little kids. I was fourteen already. And, I already knew a girl in my grade who was already all sucked into that scene, and she truly believed with her heart-of-hearts that she was a descendent of honest-to-god elves. And she told anyone who would listen all about it. And of course, being teenagers, we completely ostracized her for it.

So no matter how many Excalibur and Labyrinth movies I had watched as a child (also 'cause of mom), or how many Robin Hood tales and Choose Your Own Adventure novels I had read, and as much in my secret heart-of-hearts I really, really, really wanted to do it... my teenage pride just wouldn't let me.

But I was my family's biggest fan. (Go figure.) I went to every joust and every chess match. I even designed the t-shirt for the Med Fair one year. I supportively "huzzahed" and"oohed and aahed" at all the appropriate moments. And I still love it every year. Even though my own kin no longer grace the chess board or ride across the muddy jousting field there's still always an Achemire, god love 'em and their dreamy blue eyes, to be spied in there – like those high school quarterbacks who just never give up the glory days.

Today at lunch Kathleen and I were chatting about the upcoming weekend. She told me how she always "confesses" her Med Fair past only after she's known people for while. Like on a recent nature hike with friends, when she revealed, "uh, hey guys, the last time I hiked up this trail I was in leather and chain mail."

She's decided that she isn't going to go with us on Saturday. To clarify, we are just normal looking spectators now. Our freak flags... or should I say courtly banners... hidden from the casual eye. Kathleen sighed that it's too windy and the fair has gotten just too huge and crowded (thousands and thousands flock to it annually).. she's just gotten over it.

But I'd bet a giant turkey leg she'll cave at the last minute and tag along. Aw hell... I gotta just end with it. Huzzah!


  1. This. is. AMAZING. Wow... I always sorta wanted to audition for the renaissance festival stuff when I was younger, but I guess I had to be in school or something. I was just fascinated by these contemporary people who were so committed to the attire and accents and all that on the weekends. We went for many years (and I admit, I try to make it work out when it's in town) but I never got more intense about it than having my hair done in some crazy braid situation and eating a massive turkey leg.

    You have the most awesome stories.

  2. It really was a neat chapter in our family history. I'm glad Kathleen and Donny and Mom got into it. It especially helped Donny figure out who he was and how he fit into a group of friends. And Kathleen was just always fearless about anything. And Mom was just so supportive and cool. Like all the kids' favorite soccer mom who brings Happy Meals to the games...instead she brought meat pies and chain mail plyers. What's funny is how now we just go to Med Fair with strollers and Ray Bans and a wad of cash in our pockets for buying all the fair food.

  3. I love your blog! I look forward to reading all about your and your sibs. As the oldest of two girls and a boy, I relate to so much of this!

  4. Hi Olivia... well, welcome to The Family Sideshow. But being the oldest of four, you probably have been acquainted with the sideshow for a long time now.