Thursday, April 21, 2011

Under the Big Top

To break her lifelong habit of walking on her toes (which can lead to muscle and tendon problems) Sarah is wearing serial casts for six weeks and is five weeks into the program.

The good folks at Shriner’s Hospital of Tampa replace the casts every two weeks, and when we were there one week ago, Sarah took note of the poster advertising the Shriner’s Circus -- which happened to be kicking off a four-day local run that very day. So I am sure you can figure out where we wound up on Sunday.

I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but Sarah loved it and has not stopped talking about it…which has turned it into one of my favorite daddy-daughter memories.

There was something very old-timey about the experience. Rather than being staged inside a basketball arena, the Shriner’s Circus really did take place “under the Big Top” -- in a tent with spectators seated on portable bleachers. It was warm inside because it was warm outside. We purchased cotton candy before it started and a snow cone at intermission. We ate peanuts and tossed the shells onto the grass beneath the bleachers. It was how I picture circuses being back in the Great Depression and other “old days” in our national memory.

There was nothing new about the type of entertainment provided, but Sarah was mesmerized far beyond what I would have expected, and I guess that proves that some things never change about the mind of childhood.

Her favorite performer was “Coco the Circus Freak,” who juggled fat plastic baseball bats and got members of the audience involved in his hat-juggling routine. After the intermission, he performed that tried-and-true stunt where he tries to ride a bike but it keeps falling apart: first the seat comes off, and when he puts it back on the handle bars come off, and when he puts them back on the pedals come off, and when he puts them back on and starts to ride, the wheels come off. Then, he rode what was billed as the world’s smallest bike. Sarah could not stop laughing the whole time he was in the ring.

The circus also featured a hula hoopster who was quite amazing.

And it featured a 14-year-old, slinky-spined acrobat who contorted on tall furniture while the speakers played a bawdy version of Roxanne. He was described as being from the fifth generation of a circus-performing family from South America.

Then there was the usual assortment of illusionists. And the usual assortment of Eastern European Gypsy types, including one young lady from Romania who did gymnastics on a Russian bar that was being held by two older men.

And yes, there were some animals, including elephants, but not many.

Outside the Big Top was a carnival where Sarah rode a pony; rode a ride; fed some animals; played some games; and won an inflatable pink dolphin. As has been the case ever since she got casts, they did not hold her back from going about her business.

Circuses have some incongruities about them. The ringleader kept saying they are the world’s oldest form of family entertainment and are always rated G, and that is probably true as far as it goes…yet I could not shed my suspicion that most circus performers are Bohemians who live X-rated lives after the lights go down.

But that is an admittedly odd part of their charm, and fortunately, it is not something we need to concern ourselves with. Childhood illusions are important, and circuses uphold those illusions in ways that are hard to grasp as adults.

If you attend the Shriner’s Circus, you will have the satisfaction of knowing the money you spend is helping fund the wonderful Shriner’s Hospitals, which provide children with state of the art medical care at no charge. If one of these circuses visits your area, take your kid and give it a try.


Sandra said...

i love that last photo of Treasusre island, we lived 5 minutes from that view for 5 years before we moved here to Bradenton. thanks for stopping by my post today

jabblog said...

Sitting with your child while he or she guffaws non-stop is one of life's greatest pleasures. I still remember my son when he was about four falling about with laughter at a clown. He has children of his own, now.

The Japanese Redneck said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

So how many times have you heard "I want a pony" now?

Sounds like a wonderful event and I'm glad you made fantastic memories.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi John, Shriner's Hospital does SUCH good work. I know that they will take good care of Sarah.

I always loved the circus.. When we lived in Venice, FL (in the '70's), we lived near where Ringling Brothers kept their animals.. SO--we would wake up to hearing elephants roaring--and MORE.... (Ringling was based in Sarasota, and Venice is just south of there.)

Have a great weekend.

faye said...

Hi.. thanks for stopping by the
blog and leaving comments.

And NO ..I don't mind an AUBURN
Tiger dropping by.. I am married to
one very rabid Auburn fan.. so
a Gator and a Tiger can co-exist..
even here in Gainesville.

Not a lot of birds this year. I had
a couple of Sandhill cranes in my
backyard for weeks.