Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Circus Tent

Our family once had a tent that reminded me of those seen in a circus. My Dad found and claimed it at a flea market. We groaned when we saw it and asked, “What were you thinking?”

He grinned and said, “It was a great deal and we can invite the relatives!”

Invite them we did. Grandmothers. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. If memory serves me correctly it could sleep forty. We might of had that many too, when you threw in our own family of eleven.

Dad sat that gaudy contraption up in a field and it bloomed alongside the creek like a rowdy flower. It seemed even the trees gasped.

By day we flipped and flapped in the creek, laughter peeling through trees. When tired of that, we’d slather our skin with a concoction of baby oil and iodine and lye on hot rocks to further brown our skin, which usually ended up blistered and angry red.

In the evening were icy Cokes, and sizzling burgers, smoke from the grill swirling, twirling and exposing our hidden oasis. We’d eat exhausted but joyful among a custard of whir and buzz, the high easy call of birds on the wind.

When sun and moon traded shifts, whippoorwills clicked on, spiking air with lonesome, haunting melodies. A bonfire sprung up, fire in the sky, everyone gathering round with twigs whittled on ends to accommodate fat marshmallows. And then, Mom, fretting at little bold ones, lighting theirs, red coal fire sticks, zipping and chasing, sparks flying. Meanwhile, the old folks sitting mesmerized in lawn chairs, cheeks infused with fresh color, eyes twinkling and full.

Later came the hair-raising ghost stories, fire popping and snapping, darkness so black and voices real or imagined whispering through trees. When kids were good and frightened it was time for bed.

Yeah, right.

The adults blinked right off, but a certain sister and I couldn’t. Like pushpins in sleeping bags, we didn’t budge. An owl hooted outside the tarp and we’d stiffen, our eyes round as coasters. A snap of twig, we’d shiver and cling. And then a brother or two slinking around outside, making bizzare noises as if we weren’t petrified already. Inside the tent were odd snores and aroma’s; a funky humanity mixture ripened by night, yet oddly comforting, new and old, different and the same all in one spot at one time in time.

That gaudy circus tent; another shiny bead added to the necklace of memory.

A colorful circus tent. Pictures, Images and Photossug


  1. Wow! I wish my family had a tent like that. I'll take gaudy over boring any day. And it's not gaudy either. Just imagine, you can pretend like your royalty and have jousts. You can lay out a feast and gorge yourself. You can do acrobatics and yoga and take all the room you want.

    What happened to that tent? Did your family get rid of it?


  2. Gosh, Jai, I wish you'd a been part of the ole family. We could have been something besides hillbilly royality! One thing I can say about my bunch-they were colorful. Dad also transformed an old school bus (inside and out) into a Partridge Family clone and down the road we went. Too bad none of us could sing worth a lick, as people expected something when my big family emerged from that colorful bus.

    We grew up and the tent disappeared. Hopefully another family is using and enjoying and imagining.

  3. Your dad sounds so cool. My family never did anything interesting like that except go to India every five years or so which was great. My siblings and I used to camp out in our garden and make our own tents with blankets and pillows. We had blackberries in our garden so we'd gorge ourselves in the middle of the night.


  4. The garden camp out complete with blackberries sounds like fun. Imagination can take you anywhere.

    My dad is a very quirky guy, but it made for some fun times growing up. He was always finding and making something. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything!