By Kate Miller
“The next time to get in here, I’ll have to buy a ticket. Can you give me five more minutes?”
These lyrics are part of Scotty McCreery’s new single, Five More Minutes. The song, while talking about a high school football game, immediately struck a chord for me and I found myself misty eyed driving down I-90. While I can somewhat relate to the nostalgic call of the hometown football hero here, for me the notion of buying a ticket took me back to my last state fair. When I took my final turn through the show ring, my dad and I loaded up the trailer for the last time and left my last junior livestock show as a participant, not a visitor.
When you are in the midst of show season, especially as a parent, running low on sleep and time, back and forth between the barn and work and other obligations you can lose sight of the magnitude of what you are doing. You are exhausted. The house is a disaster. It costs a fortune. Somedays I know you think you cannot wait until they grow up. When you finally get a weekend to yourself. When your laundry room doesn’t smell like a feed lot.
But while you are here in the trenches, with long days and shorter weekends, with your head down just getting from day to day—one day you will look up. You’ll be walking your showman to the makeup area for the last time. You’ll walk the last steer to the last trailer, and just like that all the years you spent in a barn will come to an end. Of all the things you won’t miss, like State Fair corndogs and feed bills, I guarantee that there is a few things you’ll wish you could get back.
- You will remember the first show heifer. She was a little plain, but she was sweet. When you talk about her, you’ll think about how that same year your pre-teen daughter with braces was kind of the same. How they both needed each other that year, and how like a stroke of luck, they had found one another. Or maybe you will remember the first steer, who when the year was over and you walked him to the trailer, there was not a dry eye in the barn. You’ll remember taking off that rope halter, while your ten-year-old clung to his neck and said his goodbyes. You’ll miss those first few years when they needed you to tie the rope or carry the water bucket. You’ll miss their dependence on you.
- You’ll miss the time together. Right now it seems like the fighting in the back seat will never end. But you won’t remember that. You will remember the night packed into the hotel room where everyone was so tired that everything was funny and everyone was giggling. You will remember the car rides to a show brimming with excitement, and the anticipation of what the time would bring. You’ll remember driving home one night, when you looked in your rearview mirror and saw them sleeping in the backseat. You’ll hold onto that moment, because for that brief snapshot of time, as a family you were all together.
- You’ll miss the community. The other parents whose checkbooks wear the scars of show season too. The adults, just like you, who use their vacation days to work at a livestock show. Those grateful grownups with whom you can gather around the watering hole and compare notes about judges and kids and jobs and life. The people who are walking the same long road as you. Some of these strangers you meet will become family, but in the years after your child hangs up the last banner, you’ll find you too have aged out of your ringside membership. You’ll miss that sense of inclusion.
- You’ll miss the barn talks. You will miss being in the middle of their chaotic lives. You will miss the stories about their day while mixing feed pans. You’ll realize that the barn was more like communion. It was the table where you gathered daily. You’ll look back and see that you were not always just cleaning stalls and turning out calves, that those moments with your kids were where you learned who they were and who they wanted to be. You’ll hope when they look back upon their childhood, they will remember all the days and nights you spent beside them and see then too that it was always about more than showing.
- You’ll miss the joy in the small wins, and you’ll relish the memories of the big victories. You’ll remember how proud he looked with his first ribbon, and you’ll remember how anxious you were waiting on the judge to decide in the final grand drive. You’ll miss the high-five coming out of the ring or the hug walking down from the barn. But just as much, you’ll miss the mutual celebration of all things big and small, and on the flip side of that coin you’ll miss being the place they sought comfort when the day didn’t go as planned.
- But you’ll miss the smaller everyday things the most. You’ll miss the pile of dirty shoes at the back door. You’ll miss how they used to race back to the house from the barn at night, a flurry of boots and laughter. You’ll miss their voices arguing over who was doing the most work, when the barn is empty and still. You’ll get restless in the spring when you aren’t hitting the road looking for the next great one. You’ll look at the free time in your schedule, and realize that five or ten or twenty years went by in a blink of an eye. You’ll see that time you sacrificed on the road and in the barn were the most wholesome years of your life. In that moment, you will understand that your children’s independence is now a result of all you gave and for that you can be proud.
So to the momma’s who are tired of the piles of laundry and to the dads who long for the day when show feed isn’t part of the monthly balance sheet, remember why you are sacrificing. Remind yourself in those moments of stress that there will be a last time, and it is coming sooner than you think. Right around the corner is the day you’ll hang that last banner on the wall, and in the fabric of those memories will be the moments you watched your child grow.
Cherish the season you are in now. One day your exhibitor will walk through the makeup area one last time, and you’ll find yourself replaying the minutes and years that brought you here.
And in those final moments I bet you too will pray, “Lord I’m not finished. Give me five more minutes.”