Circus Days / by Jill Freedman

I was the kind of kid who was always waiting to be carried off by gypsies.

The wanderlust, the mystery, packing up your tent and slipping off into the night. Adventure! Escape!

The Circus is a reminder of all those trips never taken, all those wild schemes gone cold in the sober morning. It’s a fragile fantasy, here today, gone tomorrow, free like we’re not.

Free and nameless in a world full of bills and kids and credit cards that have got our numbers.

The circus is a noisy celebration of everything kids love – dumb jokes, offensive sounds, rude gestures, frantic activity, giddy horror, drama and courage and daring and painful beauty. It sings with the sinister energy of insane clowns. It‘s walking on wires, juggling balls, bouncing on nets, tumbling through air, like kids do, just to do it. Celebrating the sheer joy of doing something perfectly useless, perfectly. As though it were keeping a promise you made to yourself once that you’d never grow up. You’d never become one of Them. Just so, the circus is always the same. It never changes.

The magic of the Big Top. The personal magic that touches your town. The different air you breathe as soon as you step under canvas. The special smells. The excitement of the brass band blaring through the canvas speaker and between your ears.

Protected from the real world by a thin layer of magic. If we lose all of this, what will we have lost? And where will the free people go, when circus days, like the good old days, like the dreams you had, like the child you were, are gone.

The circus is an exuberant place, like childhood: a celebration of the joy of just being alive. It is a magic place, full of the mystery, terror, and ecstasy of childhood.

It is grotesque and beautiful, strange and wondrous to behold. A place you feel more than you remember, where things imagined are as real as things happened. Preposterous things that streak too fast past the corner of your eye and get you all excited. It’s a taste of the unknown, a promise of adventure, waiting for you out there where it’s all happening. Towns that you know are more exciting than your own. Women who are freer, men who are richer, chocolate every day, why not? Everything’s possible in the circus except acting your age and being sensible.

If we lose all of this [magic], what will we have lost? And where will the free people go, when circus days, like the good old days, like the dreams you had like the child you were, are gone.

The colors in the light filtering through the center poles, the pin and grommet holes, under the sidewalls. The sensual pleasure of a summer shower, wind and rain rapping the canvas over your head and you inside, warm and dry.