On Saturday, my friend Deirdre and I headed to a small town west of Victoria. This is the fourth year we’ve made this expedition together, and we were excited because on the weekend after Labour Day, Sooke hosts its annual fall fair and it’s a treasure trove.
In the adult section, there are glowing dahlias and picture-perfect pies, exquisite quilts and my second-favourite category: The Most Pathetic Produce.
But that’s not where we go first.
When we arrive, a rooster crows like a metronome behind the community centre, the smell of frying onions drifts out of the kitchen, and in the basement, Deirdre and I pick up pencils and clipboards and start what is possibly the most fun job I do all year: we judge the children’s writing competition.
Every entry is a marvel. Some highlight raw talent like a lighthouse while others display intense effort. There’s haiku and a French essay for each of three age groups. There are penmanship samples and original poetry; short fiction and essays; charming or quirky stories about camping trips real or imagined; and dark, brooding, hopeful poems by teenagers wrestling with life and death both personal and global.
Without exception, the entries show immense care – for the task, for friends and family, for the world. That kids from six to eight, nine to 11, and 12 to 14 put their hopes, dreams and fears on paper is, to me, magical. The Fall Fair is a chance for the next generation to tell its stories and boy, do they ever.
And I get to read them – how lucky am I?