It takes a village to raise a child. Or in my case, an entire street fair. This street fair, located in the parking lot of my hometown’s one and only community college is home to a variety of unique and interesting characters. My earliest childhood memories include me running from booth to booth looking at new art pieces for sale, sipping lemonade slushies, and dancing to live bands under the desert palm trees. While my friends were watching cartoons in their homes, I was talking about life with the elderly vendors who sold pastel-colored clothing and calling the jewelry guy “Cookie Monster” because he was grumpy and always wore blue.
I was fortunate enough to interact with vendors from all around the world. Some vendors had college degrees while some had barely made it out of high school. Some were very religious while some were not. When I found out the makeup vendors were not mother and son, but were two people in a committed relationship, I realized couples can come in all shapes and sizes. When I learned that a vendor man from Cuba and his best male friend were not best friends but something more, I was angrier at the fact that they couldn’t get married than the fact that they weren’t straight. It was at the street fair that I saw people love each other even though they weren’t all the same. It didn’t matter who you were, you would still have an array of people butting into your life in a way only friends can do.
In addition to my loving single mother, I have also grown up with an unofficial extended family. When I have a project for my linguistics classes, I have dozens of vendors to talk to about their home language. When there is a fundraiser, I have 100 vendors ready to buy whatever unnecessary desserts they can. Whenever I need advice on anything that is bothering me, I have hundreds of different perspectives to help me get through it all. The street fair is more than just vendors setting up booths every weekend, but friends and family that have each other’s backs.
The luggage vendor I have known my entire life has always said, “It’s important to have friends, but remember this: friends come and go, but mom doesn’t. Your mom is there for you, always.” And while he’s entirely right, I would like to propose an edit to these words of wisdom. Not only will my mom always be there for me, but so will the people of the street fair. These vendors have told me to study hard my entire life because they did not want me to “end up” like them. What they don’t know is that they have helped me grow into the person I am today, and I aspire to be at least half the accepting, hard-working, and caring people that they are. I know the street fair isn’t always perfect, but then again, what family is?