I grew up in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba - also known as the Strawberry Capital of Canada. (Well, in my day it was the Strawberry Capital of Canada. Now it's known for potatoes.)
Back in the day, our fine city of 13,000 or so held the beloved annual Strawberry Festival. People came from all over town and the surrounding countryside to revel in the merriment the festival had to offer. There was a giant bowl (the kind you could fit several grown men inside) filled with ice cream and that ice cream was topped with gallons upon gallons of our town's nationally renowned freshly sliced strawberries. (I ate my weight in that dessert every single year and I'm not afraid to admit it here and now.)
The Strawberry Festival was my hometown's annual highlight. In addition to the headlining "big get" concerts of said festival (April Wine, I'm talking to you), every year the festival would hold a pageant to crown the STRAWBERRY QUEEN. The social status this title bestowed was steeped in reverence. Friends, this competition was without parallel (unless you were from our sister city, Brandon, Florida in the United States for that is where shit also got real).
Contestants would parade around the stage with their hair standing four or five inches off the top of their heads and showcase their unique abilities for all to see.
I didn't ever compete in the pageant as I was a short, plump half Ukrainian girl from the other side of the tracks. No friends, this pageant was strictly for the esteemed young ladies of Koko Platz, their sisterhood and their not yet out of the closet brethren who sported more than a passing resemblance to any guest actor on the hit television sensation, Miami Vice. I was but a mere spectator sporting a substantial overbite and a second (make that a third) helping of strawberry doused ice cream.
Competition got a little more fierce years later with the arrival of a new subdivision in Portage la Prairie dubbed "Mellenville" which saw many entrants compete with their high sprayed hair and their soft peach polo shirts with the collars sticking straight up. (Years later, as I recalled all this to my gay obstetrician on the west coast in my third trimester, he outright dismissed these girls as "those Mellenville bitches" in an effort to comfort me when it was clear I would be tipping the scales with a 52 lb weight gain.) (Note: my baby was born 5 lbs, 15 oz.)
This pageant was cut throat. Those Mellenville bitches were relentless in their pursuit of the Strawberry Crown. One year, a girl played the flute. Inevitably, every single year, one contestant would (horrifically) sing a rendition of Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All or the uptempo Sussudio by Phil Collins. I would lumber out in the crowd, bloated and gassy silently mouthing the words as they sang, all the while dreaming that one day, I too, could take the Strawberry Stage and butcher the high notes.
Alas friends, I never did go on to be crowned Strawberry Queen. I did a Sears commercial. But tonight at the dinner table, thanks to the magic of Songza, I performed an impromptu lip sync of Bette Midler's Wind Beneath My Wings, complete with hand motions, eye gestures and everything. My children begged me to stop and my husband wished I had chosen a song with more saxophone. But tonight for a brief moment over a parmesan encrusted white fish with brown rice and peas, I grasped the shining strawberry star I never could reach in my youth.
Suck on that Mellenville Bitches.
Then feast on this.
The Happiness Detective