Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is That Clown Really Ed?

“There’s two Poppa D’s!” shouted the children. “Look, there are two!” They yelled, jumped excitedly, and pointed at the two clowns emerging from the RV.

Poppa D shouted back, “Give me five!”He hand-slapped a few kids, children of the circus performers. These kids knew Poppa D. They traveled together town-to-town in a caravan of RVs during the circus season. They’d never seen the other clown. Their enthusiastic greeting prompted this second clown to show a toothy wide smile and bellow a hearty laugh. This second clown was new. In fact, he had never appeared as a clown, not ever. This was his debut, his first and only night as a clown.

“We need to give you a name,” Poppa D said under his breath to the clown.

“How about Poppa Ed?” replied the second clown.

“Hee, Hee!” Poppa D gave his loud clown laugh and announced, “This is Pappa Ed. Ta’dah!” He opened his arms with a showman’s flare.

“Ta’dah!” Poppa Ed mimicked stepping forward and opening his arms wide. His hat teetered.

Less than a couple of hours ago, Ed was, well, just Ed…my husband, the guy taking photographs as I wandered under the circus big top with Poppa D.

Poppa D, our escort and circus PR man, saw more in Ed. “There’s one way to get a real feel for the circus,” he commented after Ed snapped another digital photo. “How about appearing as a guest clown?” he asked Ed.

Ed’s first protested, “Oh, no! Not me!” Then, showing a bit if interest, his protest turned to a question: “What do I have to do?” Then, he agreed, “Okay!”

Ed watched the 4:30 PM circus performance with special interest in the clowns. He studied their antics and I knew he was making mental notes, not reconsidering his commitment. At 6 PM, he entered Poppa D’s RV. When he emerged thirty minutes later, he was Poppa Ed the clown.

I sent a photo of Ed to our daughter from my cell phone with the message: “Dad’s joined the circus.”. “That’s not really Dad, is it?” Suzie texted. “Yep!” I replied. “Has he lost his mind?” she texted again. “Nope, he’s just gonna have some fun.”

Ed did have some fun. He entertained kids and their parents on the circus midway with a color changing silk scarf borrowed from the pro Poppa D. Kids blew a puff of air on the scarf in Ed’s fist and watched it change from red and blue to yellow. The trick amazed the kids. Ed looked amazed too each time it worked. He had less luck with a small rodeo lasso. He never did master getting the rope to rotate in a circle. It wiggled limply which brought more of a laugh than if he had been successful. He gave up on the lasso and just hung the rope across his shoulder.

Ed posed for a photo with a tiny blond toddler. He gave high fives to the older kids. He waved to the shy. And, let the bolder children give him a hug.

Leading up to show time, he assured some of the other circus performers that he wasn’t really after their job.

He mimed and smiled. He shook hands with the circus goers headed to their seats. His exaggerated greetings knocked his hat loose and sent it tumbling to the ground more than once. He’d plop the hat back on top of his yellow wig and keep on smiling.
He and Poppa D took the center ring under the big top and roused the crowd in a shouting match. When the right side was declared a winner, Ed grabbed a rope suspended from the tent ceiling. He swung like Tarzan to once again please the crowd. With the audience warmed-up for the show, Ed made one more appearance before the circus crowd.

“Duck your head,” cautioned the trainer as he led the elephant through the opening of the big top. We both scrunched down.

“Ladies and gentleman! May I introduce to you our guest clown for the evening… Ed Lonsbary of Toronto Canada and his wife Patty,” the ring master stretched his words.

Poppa Ed and I waved to crowd from atop the lumbering elephant. Cameras flashed. Little kids waved. The crowd cheered. Ed black hat teetered a bit more but it didn’t fall. He had mastered the art of being a clown, if only for one night.

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