Elephants, ice cream, and souvenirs

At the circus, everything was perfect -- except the poodles

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By Susan Konig

It is definitely easier to stay home and watch television than to take three kids to the circus. To venture out on an entertainment adventure involves logistics, money, energy, faith, and patience.

But recently, when the circus came to town, I realized our 7-year-old had never seen a circus and, if that was true, then his older siblings were 5 and 3 last time we went. Our 2-year-old didn’t even know what the circus was.

So I got some tickets for the early show one Saturday morning, and off we went. Dad begged off and promised to re-landscape the yard while we were gone. I understood. The potential
for a colossal headache was there: traffic, parking, wrangling three boys, stroller issues, snacks, bathroom breaks, irritating clowns.

Our daughter was on a weeklong Girl Scout trip with her fellow seventh-graders, so I thought it would be nice to take the boys on their own. We don’t spend enough fun time together.

Our trip to the city went smoothly. Even when we hit some traffic, it happened to be right next to a riverfront helicopter pad where tourists could take rides around the city. While we were stuck, three helicopters landed. The boys were thrilled. I think we could have gone home then.

But we made it to the circus, parking in a nearby pay garage. I had budgeted for that, because sometimes having your car within a block of your destination where you know it will not be towed away is a priceless experience.

We approached the arena, and I could tell the boys were excited. Heck, I was excited to hear the music, see the happy families, smell the circus animal smells.

Our seats were terrific; the clowns came up to shake hands with the kids. They weren’t scary at all. The baby couldn’t stop clapping. We’d told our 2-year-old that there would be elephants, but I don’t think he understood. When they came out, his mouth fell open and he pointed. Then he smiled and squealed, “Fan-mens,” his word for elephants.

“Yes, fan-mens,” we replied. My older boys got such a kick out of their baby brother’s reactions.

Every minute was action-packed. The human cannonballs were brave. The high-wire acrobats were graceful. The elephants and zebras were better trained than the poodles. You can’t really tell a poodle what to do. They barked at the audience and refused to go down the small doggy slide. The tigers were fierce-looking but nobody got eaten.

There was even a short presentation about a breeding center and retirement community for Asian elephants in Florida. And what better place for a retirement community?

The only sticking point was souvenirs. I remember always getting a flashlight at the circus when I was a kid. It was a little tan colored thing with a red top on a plastic lanyard. You could swing it around in the darkness.

Well, today the flashlights are big and have moving parts and are $22. I just couldn’t do it. We wouldn’t have been able to afford to get the car out of the parking garage.

It was really my 7-year-old who wanted one. I told him to wait and we’d try to pick one up on the way out. The show ended and we made an orderly retreat. The tables were still set up and the souvenirs were still overpriced. Then, standing by the exit all by himself was a man with a nametag that read “Robert.” He had flashlights that were shaped like giant flowers and lights spun around inside. “How much, Robert?” I asked.

“Five dollars,” he answered.

“Give me your best one, please,” I said. My son was thrilled. Perfect end to a perfect day. CD

Susan Konig

Susan Konig is the author of I Wear the Maternity Pants in This Family (2007) and Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road and Other Lies I Tell My Children (2006). Visit Konig's Web site at susankonig.com, and on Facebook at facebook.com/susankonig