Friday, August 19, 2011

What We Do

Thumper and I went to the Circus today. It's a whole different perspective experiencing it as an audience member instead of chatting with the workers behind the scenes. It was the 140th showing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and what struck me most was how little the show has changed over the years. What has changed, at least since last year, is how much it engaged Thumper.

From the beginning of the "All-Access Pre-Show" where audience members can go down onto the arena floor and get close some of the acts, his head was on a swivel, yelling, "Woah!" and "Wow!" and "Did you see that?" He loved a clown act where we on one side of the ring were to cheer for one clown and those on the other side were to cheer for the other as they engaged in a silly race and other shenanigans. He especially loved that we were supposed to boo the other guy, too. And the old gag where the bucket of water turns out to somehow, magically, be full of confetti rather than water? Stunning! He even picked up a piece of the confetti and examined it for awhile, I suppose to see if he could figure out how it changed to paper from water.

His favorite parts were, of course, the snow cone (in the souvenir cup: $12) and the toy (plastic cannon that shoots a rubber man about 3 feet: $14) and the popcorn (no souvenirs: only $3), but he also was truly amazed by each of the acts, including acrobats and high-wire acts and a strong man ("Dad, can you lift weights like THAT??") and a guy who walked on fire and jumped up and down on broken glass ("OUCH!!"). He yelled, "Look, real tigers!" when the tiger tamer came out, but he quickly lost interest in it, and who can blame him? It was slow, and interminable, with the tamer mumbling in some foreign language while tigers did tricks that didn't look very impressive to a 4-year-old, who perhaps didn't quite understand the premise of a tiger taming act. And when you do understand the premise, it's just kind of sad and shabby and mean: "Look how I can make these once terrifying and ferocious killers do small, petty, and degrading tricks!"

Anyway, he made it almost through the entire 1-hour first act before deciding he was done, which is about 50 minutes longer than last year. And when you consider the 90 minutes of pre-show activities, that's really more like two and a half hours, which is pretty good for a 4-year-old.

I was smart enough to bring his toothbrush, toothpaste, and pajamas, anticipating that he would zonk out in the car on the way home, which he did. When I told him we were going to brush his teeth, he said, "No, that's silly! You're just kidding!" When I put the paste on the brush and told him to open, he anxiously said, "But there's no where to spit!" When I told him to lean way out of the car and spit on the street, he did it, but he said, "This is just crazy!"

My favorite part, though, was walking back to our car, when we chased each other's shadows, trying to step on them. Earlier, when we were in line for popcorn, he wandered away to chat with a couple other kids about their toy selections, so I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back, explaining that he had to stick by me because there were so many people, he could easily get lost. When we were walking to the car he said, "You know, if I got lost, I'd be really, really upset if I couldn't see you." I replied, "I'd be really upset, too, but I won't let that happen. You don't have to worry." "Yeah," he said, "but if you and Mama both got lost, we'd never find our way home." I answered, "But we know where we live, right? No problem!" "Yeah," he said, "No problem. When we get into trouble, we get out again, right? That's just what we do."

Yeah, little man, that's what we do. God, I love that kid. I really needed tonight to help me remember that.

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