The kids and I quite literally ran away to the circus on Friday.
But only for a day.
Although we lived just three blocks away for years we never once went to visit.
Living in Baraboo and not being the circus-type was a bit of a trip. Walking (then infant) Sage by the river near our house we would occasionally see them bathing elephants in the river, and we could hear the calliopes from our backyard.
I vividly recall my dog barking like mad just after we moved to Baraboo. I looked up to see a sad clown with a giant mallet over his shoulder bicycling by my house. I smiled at him politely and he just stared, all frowny-faced and sad-eyed. Biking and staring at my dog and me.
"It is scary," I assured my dog. Keep barking.
You see, my history with the circus is sketchy at best. (As a teenager in Milwaukee the only time I went to the famous Circus Parade was to hand out fliers about animal rights. I was that kid.)
So thinking about the circus has always made me feel sad.
But last Friday I decided it was time.
And I suspected that visiting in the off-season would mean no animals, few other guests, and just an amazing visual and educational feast.
I was right.
We had the place to ourselves. (Literally.) Dioramas, trains, wagons, and exhibits.
Our favorite building was a huge warehouse filled with antique circus wagons. Unheated and un-staffed it had just two rules: don't smoke and don't climb.
Wagons were packed willy-nilly throughout like they were hastily unloaded in a windstorm. Some we crawled under to get past.
It was amazing.
At one point Lupine was running full bore between two wagons. She stopped and glanced up to both sides. "There is a lot of Greek mythology in here!"
And off she ran again.
(See? We were homeschooling.)
The displays also provided me with an opportunity to talk about how people treat one another in our culture. And how slowly we are learing to believe in equality. Bit by bit.
There was a huge circus diorama that captivated us all. But when we got to the "Side Show" the kids were baffled and disturbed by what they saw. They had no framework from which to process it.
It was a great moment to discuss how we as a species are evolving as we begin to see one another as whole people – not something to laugh at, exile, ridicule, or judge.
But mostly we just had an incredible day.
An afternoon at the circus. (And oh, yes – two thrift stores on the way home.)
And now to plan next Friday's adventure. Hmmm… Where to go…
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Happy Martin Luther King day. Here is looking forward to our continued evolution, understanding, and compassion.