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The boy at the circus

May 8, 2014 - Ilsa Matthes
I love the circus, and you can bet that this weekend when the circus comes to town I’ll be a face in the crowd — carefully critiquing the Lyra, Risley, and Spanish Web artists the way Olympic judges critique figure skaters.

I’ll also be watching the children. At least one toddler will kick me in the kidneys, but it comes with the territory when small children are sitting on bleachers.

Last time the circus was in town the shoe that found itself pressed against my spine belonged to the little boy. Upon turning around to see his shining face, I discovered a happy looking toddler with Down syndrome.

His parents apologized for the kicking, a little embarrassed. I wasn’t mad. He was excited, and just like every little kid at the circus his feet were getting away from him. I firmly believe this is why humans have two kidneys.

They moved him on the bench to offset the natural magnetism of toddler shoes. After making sure he could see past me, I settled in to watch the show.

Even though the show wasn’t really holding his attention, occasionally I’d look back and see that something in the ring had caught his eye. He’d sit there for a minute, mesmerized, with the colored lights reflecting in his bright eyes — and then a moment later he’d remember that the room was loud and filled with strangers.

Intermission is a pretty busy time at the circus with kids trying to get their faces painted and convince their parents to buy them balloons or cotton candy. It’s also when a lot of parents with young children leave. Colorful lights and loud noises can wear out even the most well behaved child, and the little boy behind me was no exception.

I must admit, I was sad to see him go. It may be too soon for the little boy and his parents to try again, but I hope they do in the future. Everyone needs to be mesmerized now and then.


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