The Big Top

A new old tradition has been revived in my family: going to the circus. I have an extremely dim memory of the first time, so it must have been in California before my family moved to Texas.

I recall that my dad would play some of the games for prizes, after asking his daughters to decide what sort of prize they wanted. My sister usually zeroed in on stuffed animal lions and tigers, but this was so long ago that I was still in my doll phase. I remember coveting a pale “lady doll” who had black hair and blue eyes (in other words, she looked like my ancient hero Wonder Woman). She was way at the top of the dolls. My dad never had trouble winning the games, and after the prize was won, the guy reached for a blonde doll behind him. My dad wouldn’t take no for an answer – it had to be the one his baby wanted. So the guy had to take a pole with a hook on it to get the doll with the black hair, and I clutched her with glee as we all went off to win a stuffed tiger down the row. I wonder what happened to that doll? Someday, I’ll have to hunt for one to stand in for her. Maybe the next time I’m in the Oh Susanna shop in the French Quarter. But I digress….

We used to go to the circus every year when I was little, in California and later in Texas. We’d get cotton candy, popcorn, and chocolate malt balls (though after one night of far too many malt balls, I can’t even smell them to this day).

I suppose what broke the habit was when the family moved to Saudi Arabia for my dad’s job, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey couldn’t follow us there.

Last year, I was driving through Houston and saw a billboard for good ole RB and B&B, and called my sister to read off the information to her. We went with our mom on a nostalgic whim, but ended up having such a good time that we knew we’d want to go again. Well, that time is now – or actually, that time is tomorrow evening. We’re even planning to be there early enough to visit the performing animals in their cages before the show like we used to way back when. I won’t be scarfing down malt balls, but the cotton candy will not be safe from me!

Here’s a bit of circus trivia for you: Ringling Bros. used to be a rival of Barnum & Bailey, and sometimes the competition got out of hand. Funny that they ended up joining forces and still exist today when others have disbanded and disappeared long ago. When I’m watching the performances, I often think about the history of the show and how they used to travel by train with special cars. Watch “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, at the beginning – you’ll see one of these special trains, complete with a giraffe staring at you from a hole in one of the cars. Bygone times….

It’s terribly cool that the circus shows are still around, and even though a lot has changed, you can still see the lion tamer, the trapeze troupe, and the magnificent horses – and of course, those wonderful clowns and pretty acrobats. Good times.

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