I was chatting with a friend today (let’s call her “Jane” to protect the guilty), and we somehow got on the subject of circus elephants. I can’t remember what I said about them, but the next thing I heard was “Don’t say that! My family are circus people”. Man, I have wanted to use that line my entire life. I was green with envy. After I finished laughing and pointing at her, which always makes me feel better about myself, I was anxious to hear about her vagabond childhood with bearded fat ladies and sword swallowers and lion tamers. Did she get to pet the elephants? Play poker and smoke cigars all night? Drink cheap booze? It all sounded very interesting.
“Jane” said that her husband loved to talk about her family at cocktail parties (well duuuuuh!) but he called it the amusements business. Sounds so much classier than circus. But here’s the thing, her grandfather really did own amusement parks, not a circus. Sure, it’s not quite as cool as traveling with the circus, but it’s still really cool. So yes, she got to go on the rides a gazillion times without having to beg for tickets, and eat candy until she got sick, but the amusement park is also where she formed her very sense of being (insert dramatic music here).
When “Jane” played the midway games, whether it was tossing balls into buckets or shooting holes in a target or squirting a water gun to burst a balloon, she always won. Like, every single time. And not just one of the ripped up little stuffed animals in the front either. She won the stuffed animals that were hanging on that very top shelf, a huge giraffe or lion or dog. The ones we all drooled for as kids but never got…wondering why little smarty pants girls like “Jane” could win one so easily.
“Jane” grew up thinking of herself as a Winner! She was magical, everything she touched turned to gold! But eventually she found herself in a not-my-grandfather’s amusement park, tossing a few balls into a bucket and eyeballing a giant stuffed bear. She was already thinking about which color bear she wanted when the first ball she tossed bounced right back out of the basket. She tossed another one, but, nothing. She suddenly realized that the fat sweaty guy running the game wasn’t going out of his way to be nice to her. He didn’t clap for everything she did. And he most certainly did not give her a giant bear, of any color.
Frankly, I was a little teary eyed for her. Well, almost teary eyed. Is it better to have won and lost, than to never have won at all?
I reminded her that she could still eat candy until she got sick, if that would help her regain her lost sense of self. Works for me like a charm. Once she had a nice little sugar buzz going, I talked to her about closure and learning to love again. I told her she would feel better just getting rid of that stupid old giraffe, constantly taunting her. I promised her I would raise it right.