Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Post in Pictures: Take Me to the Circus

I am a person who lives for the chance to feel like a child again. It's why I let my kids do things that my husband would never agree to. I ask myself alot, would I want to do that if I were a kid? A yes can find me repentant and blabbering explanation after they've hurt themselves or broken something.

Yesterday afternoon I was given the gift of feeling like a kid again, and my children got full license to revel in their childdom. And no one got hurt in our wild abandon, though the possibility seemed high. Matthew, my guy, gave the kids and me tickets to the circus.

Zoppe - An Italian Family Circus is in our town each year around the holidays. It has no smoke and mirrors, no big, expensive lights or special effects, no hordes of clowns outdoing each other with their crazy antics. There is only one clown, Nino, and he is hilarious. He is also the one who runs the circus, the descendant of the gentleman who started it in 1842.

It isn't your typical, big-ticket company with wild animals made to do outrageous tricks. I went to a circus like that when I was about 10 or so. I rode on a poor mangy elephant and felt embarrassed for its fellows as they stood in the ring, tutus on and front hoofs balanced on the elephant in front like a cha-cha line. When I got home my parents asked what my favorite part was, and I replied, "The ringmaster." They laughed themselves silly over their strange little girl. I didn't tell them I tried to get his autograph.

If I wanted Nino's autograph, I'm sure he would have given it, because the Zoppe Circus feels like a family circus. They perform in front of the tent for the waiting audience before the show even starts. Nino, sans make-up, introduces the performers, including his toddler son. Spectators are pulled from the crowd to dance with the acrobats. The gentleman most akin to a ringmaster plays the accordion to the tune of O Sole Mio. The members of the circus do it all, even selling souvenirs. And when you walk into the tent, it's a cozy crowd. Every seat is a good one, and if you do not shout and whoop and clap a thousand times during the show, you have missed the spirit of it all and abandoned the child within you.

Of course, getting to your seat is a feat that will make you feel like you're one of the troupe. The bleachers are basically boards latched together with bungee cords, and if you lack a balanced step you could topple into the lap of fellow spectators. I wanted to take a bow when I reached our top tier bleacher, but everyone else was too busy navigating their own path with buckets of popcorn clutched to their chests. Nevertheless, even the seating made one feel at home. There were no assigned seats, and each family could sprawl out as they wished. Our family shuffled around quite a bit as our littlest hopped from my lap to his papa's to those of his siblings. And because they are bleachers without any armrests or other dividers, you feel you are part of a larger family of pleasure-seekers and fall easily into conversation with kindred members of the audience, sharing the awe and the joy of the occasion.

In the beginning I was a little worried that my big 10-year-old son, Berto, would think he was too old for such entertainment. I shouldn't have been. He was gasping and giggling and shouting encouragements to Nino the clown along with his siblings. Even my husband was shouting and applauding. No one could be immune to the amazing feats of the female acrobats (my eldest daughter, Ana, whispered, "Aren't they beautiful?") as they spun, hung from one appendage high in the air. Berto particularly admired the courage of the men who rotated metal balls and fiery torches around their bodies as they kicked up their legs merrily in dance, and the gentleman who balanced a huge metal pole on his face as his children scrambled up it. And all the kids, my own and every other in the audience, loved Nino the Clown. He pulled children and adults from the audience to help him with his comedy, so simple and so magical in execution.

It was a gift of experience and a grand one that made me want to run away and join the circus. And I do believe I could do it. I just happened to notice that the female daredevils had voluptuous thighs like myself, only undoubtedly more muscular, and it made me proud to be a curvy woman when I saw their beautiful and breath-taking maneuvers, even as I exclaimed involuntarily at their daring, "Don't do it! Don't do it!"

As I leaned back into my Man's arms and saw his smile at my childish involvement (I, too, was yelling to Nino), I knew that the memory of this was something our family would cherish and recall at future Christmases.

We left the intimate tent, and the circus stars were lined up outside to see us off with a smile and a wave. I wished them Happy New Year. Nino gave hugs to kids and adults alike and posed for pictures. Ah, the family circus!

On the way home our children used "Awesome!" obsessively to describe the experience, and if that's any indication, I think we have fair chance of returning next year. Until then I'll work on my juggling, bare-back riding, tight-rope walking, hanging myself upside down to spin by one ankle, and building my thigh muscles, so that maybe, just maybe, I can fulfill a time-honored childhood dream of yesteryear and run away with the circus. If I can train my kids and get my Man to wear tights and grow out his thick mane to a respectable artist's length, we can all go together.

Now wouldn't that be grand?


  1. Wow! You make me feel like I was there, ten years old - but so much better than the sad circuses I remember from then. Thanks for a great post.

    1. I'm glad my words and photos took you there with me and made you feel like a 10-year-old, Tim! It was a great day with a great circus, and I was a little kid again myself. Thanks for visiting with me.

  2. How wonderful. How wonderful.

    I would always dream of being on the flying trapeze.


    1. Ah, you're a daredevil! I'd be a clown for sure.



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