The Shriner’s Circus is in town. I was at the grocery store a couple weeks ago with my ten year old. An elderly man approached us and asked my son if he liked the circus. My son said yes and so the man handed us ten tickets to go to see the Shriner’s Circus. I hadn’t planned to attend, but after that I decided, Why not?
We took our six youngest. It was held at the Thompson-Boling Arena, the same public venue where I watched my husband graduate from UT, watched our oldest two children graduate high school, and the place that our family went for years to see the annual performance of the Living Christmas Tree. I have enough good memories there that it always feels good to walk inside.
We found some nosebleed seats which were actually very nice because we were right by the exit and close to the bathrooms and water fountains. As the lights went down for the show to begin I had a flashback of all the circuses I went to as a child. I remember the first circus I ever saw was in Haiti when I was five or six. After that, in Morehead, Kentucky, I remember the circus setting up in big fields right outside town. I remember the carefully organized parking lots they would create out in the cow fields, carefully stepping over large clumps of grass as we made our way to the tents.
I think my parents must have been pretty on top of their game when it came to circus attendance. I’m pretty sure we went whenever the circus was in town. As a child my absolute favorite part was the ladies in their bombastic spandex outfits as they climbed up ropes and did daring feats as they danced far above our heads. They always looked so graceful. Princesses. Afterwards I would go home and climb up the rope to our swing and practice diligently, sure that I looked just as graceful as they did.
Now, with my own children in attendance, I took just as much pleasure from just watching my children’s faces as they looked on in awe and amazement. Then, about ten minutes into the show, the two year old freaked out. Way too much stimulation going on here. My husband, who was sitting with him down on the other end of the line of kids, awkwardly managed to pass him to me. The poor toddler clung to me, tears coming down his face. I held him tight, murmuring into his ear so he could hear me. He calmed down and then settled into my lap, leaning back against me so he could watch from a safer position.
The six year old’s eyes were shining as she gasped, sure that the acrobat was going to fall. The twelve year old jerked back in his seat when the trapeze artist fell from the sky. We had all been so focused on their antics that we hadn’t even noticed the safety net strung below them. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we saw that she was ok. When the resident daredevil did his tricks on top of a large white contraption that spun around in a big circle with a spinning wheel, I had the presence of mind to pray for his safety. I really didn’t want my children to witness him splatting on the concrete floor. I don’t know if we ever would have recovered from that.
As I watched I thought about the week to come. As a child, for me and my friends, the best part of going to a circus was playing circus afterwards. We would spend hours practicing our routines, trying to figure out how we could make our own trapezes, balancing ropes, and could we get our pets to do some amazing tricks? We would practice and practice, and try to come up with some fancy costumes, usually involving our swimsuits, the only spandex we owned. Then finally, we would try to rope in some of the parents to come and watch us: charging admission, handing out paper home-made tickets. I have some vague memories of getting caught up in a rope and ending up dangling from a tree by one foot. I also seem to remember that one trick ended up with my cousin getting a near-concussion. Yep. I’m pretty sure that after the circus comes to town, the ER visits increase for a while.
Now I kind of feel the need to give my kids a couple more instructions than normal. 1. Our pets don’t know how to do these tricks. Please do not try to launch one of our animals from a high place just because you saw the dog do it at the circus. 2. Even though the lady and her partner put ropes around their necks and spun from the ceiling in a fast circle, WE are not going to try to do that. 3. The motorcycle tricks were awesome, but I don’t think that a regular bike will be able to accomplish the same feats if you attempt to jump your bike off a home-made ramp. Just saying.
All in all, I’m glad we went. Yes, there were some moments in the middle where the two and four year old were driving me crazy as they were unable to sit still in a seat. Not having a small fortune to spend on light-up toys and elephant rides was a bit of a downer for the kids. But, everyone got to try some cotton candy, the opinion split down the middle over whether this was AMAZING or YUCKY. (I vote Yucky). We shared some popcorn and managed to get large quantities all over the floor. We spent an afternoon together making memories. It was good. Hurray for the circus!