Monday, February 11, 2008

My Son Danced With a Clown

A recent study from London shows that "clowns are universally disliked by children." This does not surprise me in the least. After my own dreadful experience in the Ob/Gyn Clown Ward, I am convinced that clowns are downright creepy. Nobody likes 'em! Except for, apparently, my eldest son.

I recently attended a children's event at which the clown pictured above was billed as the entertainment. She had been requested not to show up in white face paint because that was deemed too scary for the little ones. Nevertheless, the moment she skipped in, microphone in hand, one child started screaming as if he'd been bitten by the Devil. His father beat a hasty retreat while hot tears flew with dynamic, horizontal force out of the child's eyes. And this was before the clown had even started her act!

My own kids stared at her with round eyes, but did not seem fazed by her shrieky voice or floppy tam o' shanter. They watched with apparent interest her shoddy magic tricks and did not wince when the feedback from the mike sent chills up parental spines.

Distracted for a moment, I turned to speak to another parent. When I turned back, I saw a sight that made my jaw drop. My older child had run out and taken up position right next to the clown, and together--like an old, well-seasoned team of vaudeville actors--they were doing a lively version of the "chicken dance." The one that they do at weddings? Yes, that humiliation. I had seen it performed by an immediate relative only once before. It was not a sight I had wished to see again.

But there he was, flapping his "wings" and shaking his "tailfeathers." He had obviously positioned himself thus to be closer to the clown, maybe elbowing aside a couple of other kids to get there. And he was looking up at her with a googly mixture of awe, admiration, and love. Good god! I have never been prouder. Finally, my son had shown that he was not only fearless--daring to tread where other children wept and soiled themselves--but he was ready to enter into American life as a proud little conformist. He had danced with the clown. He had touched the stars.

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