Send in the Clown!

March 31, 2012

Circus Day! Another event I didn’t experience until adulthood – but I’d sure read enough about it … enough to feel confident I could pull one off on my own even without having actually seen one ‘live’.

I mean – how hard could it be? There were: Clowns. Animals. Stunts. Food.

ALL one had to do was issue a proper invite (…and school lessons had thoroughly coached me about being sure to include the right ‘date/time’ sequence on any invitation) and charge an affordable sum and they would come.

I had ALL the props I needed: a swing/slide set complete with trapeze bar I could (amazingly) hang on by my knees like a monkey, ‘animals’ (in that it was Caterpillar Season and about 600 resided in my own backyard), there could be a Bunny Hunt for the wabbit escapees (that still called the giant cactus under the porch ‘home’ after my successful jailbreak), and Sis would make a GREAT clown with the aid of Mom’s makeup (obviously, THAT was what all her lipstick was for!).

 (…the show coulda been even better if the Parental Units hadn’t been so stingy in the Pets for Kids area!)

I gots busy and crayoned about 20 rough invitations. The flowery promises of Invite #1 became much condensed by early carpel tunnel-inducing Invite #20; but there was plenty of info about date, time, events – and that ALL ages were invited. From 9 and down, to be specific. (In retrospect I should’ve narrowed the age range to ‘5 and under’; because by the time you were 9, angst and critical thinking had long set in….)

I hand-delivered the invites to EVERY house around the block that held a (a) swingset (b) yard toys (c) discarded bikes …(c) any indicator of Kids. (These were done a week in advance on a Teen Babysitter walk, where it was easy to convince TBS that these were messages to all my friends, as opposed to invites to ‘total strangers’.)

Really – there’s not much to be done when preparing for a circus event. The swing/slides were already there, I’d filched some of Mom’s makeup the week before during Teen Babysitter Saturday, and I’d quickly collected a JAR full of caterpillar participants the evening before (on some sorta pretext) and hidden the jar under the slide to avoid Bedroom Inspection – so I was all set.

D-Day Dawned.

1 hour before the allotted time I started in on Sis and covered her in makeup and the gaudiest clothes I could locate from my parents’ closet: an elaborate fur coat, sequined dress; even a tiara raided from Mom’s jewelry box. All previously unused (at least, I had never seen them in use) and therefore, obviously, gaudy junk.

It was like dressing a python: lotsa squirming, sobs, and “I don’t LIKE it”s. Sheesh. I’d always heard stars could be temperamental, and now I had personal experience.

Mom walked in about 30 minutes before showtime and it was then that the specifics were uncovered about my latest plot:

Me (proudly): OH – I’m glad you’re here. The Clown is being uncooperative: can you just throw this dusting powder all over her face?

Mom (puzzled, as usual): What’s happening in here? I could hear screaming all the way in the basement! WHAT are you doing to your little sister now?

Me: Oh, she’s not my little sister….

Mom: ???

Me: …TODAY, she is one of the stars of the show – a CLOWN.

(Sis puffed up like an adder at that. It’s amazing the mere designation of  ‘star’ negates all the ‘scratchy and smelly’ portions of the transformation process.)

Mom: Show??

Me: OH – did I forget to tell you?  (Ed’s note: darn well right: if I had told, it wouldn’t have happened. Adults being SOO negative…). It’s CIRCUS DAY.

(I made a point of demonstrating my newfound Clock Skills.)

Me: And our audience should be arriving in – oh – 15 minutes.

At that point it was admitted that at least 15 kids of undetermined ages were to descend upon us at any moment.

Me: (generously): … but YOU can serve the lemonade and cookies. I know you want a part in this!

(I will never understand adults. They can get huffy even when you offer ‘em a major role in the production! Go figger!)

Mom: (screaming): I am entertaining 15 children in 15 minutes?

Me: (gently explaining): No, Mom. I am taking care of the entertainment, remember? YOU are doing Food. And we’re getting a whopping $.05 a head for this circus!

Mom slammed her way into the kitchen to prep and I could only hope her mood would lighten in 15 minutes, because having a grouchy servant is NO WAY to begin a circus!

The doorbell began to ring …. And it rang and rang and rang. Apparently all the houses I’d flyered had at least 2 kids per. AND ‘knew other kids’ likely to be interested. ALL the adults apparently also thought it a GRAND idea that they could drop off 4 at a time and enjoy a leisurely afternoon alone, as they all politely turned down invites to attend (…upon reflection, perhaps it was my ‘ONLY under the age of 9 invited!’ portion that put them off).

By showtime we had over 20 kids ages 1-9 out in the back yard. Most of ‘em strangers. (Ed’s note: though they weren’t REALLY ‘strangers’:  they ALL came from a 1-square block radius, as I liked to point out later to Mom – and therefore, they were NEIGHBORS.)

Sis was a terrific clown. I told her to stomp over (in Dad’s large slippers) and say hello to each kid but at least 50% – according to my poll – apparently harbored a hidden Terror of Clowns and so in another 15 minutes at least half of the audience was screaming and wailing. No matter. (a) I’d extracted the monies first thing and (b) it was held outside, so a little screaming from the audience went a long way. (I duly noted the number of Peeping Neighbors looking at the show from behind curtains and window shades in the immediate houses next doors and determined to extract the .05 fee from THEM later – since everyone knows there are no free shows in life.)

The Animal Show came first. A bucket of water was placed at slide’s bottom and 600 caterpillars loosed at the top for the Animal Race and Swim Exposition. And I can expertly tell you that even though they curl up into roly-poly balls when captured, when feeling the prospect of an Uncontrolled Slide, a caterpillar WILL rapidly uncurl and uncooperatively walk around in an escape attempt. And when you have hundreds to corral – well, the slide-into-water-bucket race just ain’t happenin’.

Mom came out with the first batch of newly-baked cookies in time to see the slide converted to an apparent living moving mass of fuzz, screamed, and threw up her hands, ditching the goodies into the grass – at which 20 finally-properly-seated kids scrambled for an even better opportunity: a treasure hunt for cookies in the long grass. Despite Mom’s screams to “just leave them”. I guess the kids got dropped off hungry. I also noted at least 50% were apparently terrified of Caterpillars, which now swarmed the grass in a moving living carpet reminiscent of a good horror show. (Likely it was the same 50% that were already Clown Compromised.)

Servant Mom gave up and returned to her kitchen kingdom for more refreshments, the 9-year-olds began innuendos of ‘being ripped off’ in the entertainment department and (frighteningly) mentioning the swear word ‘refund’, and the very young (just quieted down from the Clown Fiasco) began cries of terror as the remaining caterpillars finally made it off the slide and rushed the audience.

Time for Act 2!

I demonstrated my trapeze skills with my hands-free, swing-by-the-knees display which apparently impressed only the very young. Once more critical thinking set in amongst the 9-year-olds and the swear words ‘refund’ and ‘ripoff’ were again being liberally bandied about, so I attempted something I had previously only coveted on my TV viewing of gymnastics (…never having been offered proper training despite all my useless schooling to date): the triple axel summersault dismount.

All I can say is: there is a reason one practices one’s grand finale beforehand!

And all I can also say is: it’s a good idea to instruct The Clown beforehand to (no matter what happens) NOT race into the house screaming “Diane fell off the swingset and KILLED HERSELF!”

More cookies on their way out the door bit the grass as Mom raced full speed to the fallen and tested for concussion.

Apparently, here is where the show earned its admission fee. The youngest set thought my dismount and head-land perfectly amazing, while the oldest relished the sudden and profuse show of BLOOD – so everyone was FINALLY HAPPY.

‘Cept, perhaps, for Mom.

There was another impromptu Cookie Hunt in the grass as Mom attended to Moi.

Parents began showing up to pick up their abandoned children and eventually – even miraculously – ALL the children got to their proper places of origin. We think.

It was a TOTALLY successful circus, to my mind. I was RICH – having made like $1.00 outta the entire effort (a lotta money in those days, considering we got a whopping .05 a WEEK for allowance. I was halfway to my Schwinn, at least!).

Dad came home that evening with the usual “how was your day” and, mysteriously, Mom “didn’t even wanna talk about it”.

We got pizza delivered in, as I was still in bed with talk of ‘concussion’ (…in those days ambulances and doctors were impossibly expensive, so a ‘wait and see’ attitude usually sufficed, coupled with Mom’s handy past life as an RN).

It was simply GLORIOUS.

I sometimes wonder that Mom talks to me at all, these days. Perhaps I shouldn’t wonder why she often refuses to talk about the past.

No matter. I do it for her….


PS: Some kids dream of RUNNING AWAY to the Circus.

Me, I was determined to BRING THE CIRCUS HOME.

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