After over a month of waiting, today was the big day - Alli's first trip to see the circus! While millions of parents across the country make this same trip each year, this experience was something we were really looking forward to. Some Followers may not know the full back story, but my great-great-uncles are the five Ringling brothers that started the Ringling Brothers Circus. Needless to say, today we took Alli to see the Greatest Show on Earth - The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. While the "family business" hasn't been in the family for a long, long time - it still bears our name and holds a very special place in our hearts.
It couldn't have been a better day to head to the North Charleston coliseum to see the show - pouring down rain. While walking in and out with Alli on my arm wasn't much fun, I'm glad that we didn't have to pass up one of our 300+ sunny days down here to see it. Alli's aunt Bacon and her boyfriend Zack came down from Myrtle Beach to join the party, too. So once Alli woke up from her nap, we packed into the family truckster and headed to the 3pm show.
As we were walking in, we couldn't help but pass a half-dozen protesters from PETA speaking out against how the Ringling organization mistreats their animals - namely the elephants. They were handing out pamphlets outlining the gory details and even had someone dressed in a elephant costume with its ankles shackled together waving to us as we walked by. Now, let me be perfectly clear on one thing - I'm not one to condone violence and poor treatment against animals. I'm an animal lover at heart and so is everyone in my family. I've had pets my whole life and our dog Scarlett is even a rescue. But apparently these "demonstrators" had nothing better to do on a rainy Saturday afternoon than to try and scar my daughter with gruesome images they probably just printed off a Google image search.
PETA, that's my (former) family business you're insulting, and I take that very personally. Granted, I'm not familiar with all the inner-workings of the circus these days, but I can guarantee that these people don't know what they're talking about. Judging by how some of these poor saps looked standing there in the rain, I'd say the animals probably eat better than they do. After the show ended and the hoards of people were pouring out of the coliseum, I sarcastically shouted to them as we walked by, "Pretty good crowd today, I can tell you're protest is having a huge impact!"
Sorry about that, now I feel better. Now, then...
We were able to find our seats and get everything situated for the show with about 15 minutes to spare. Mad props to Mommy B for going the extra mile and getting us some premo seats - about 20 rows up with a full view of the action. I knew this would come in handy because Alli wouldn't have to constantly turn her head to see all the action. Obviously, I've been to a few circuses in my day. Just as we all got settled, the lights went out. That's when the fun began.
The theme of the circus this year was "Fully Charged" - which meant plenty of fireworks, flashing lights and things set on fire. For the first 30+ minutes, Alli was in a full-on trance. I'm talking the type of zoned-out attention only Elmo on the car's DVD player can elicit - which was exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted her to be so encapsulated by the sheer amazement that is the Greatest Show on Earth that we wouldn't have to touch her for 2 hours. And I (almost) got my wish.
The moment the curtains flew back and the clowns, horses, elephants, jugglers, unicyclists and dancers came out, Alli was in total awe. She stared down at the arena and just... watched. She was so entranced that she didn't blink until tears started forming in the corners of her eyes. I could see her eyes moving from one act to the next as they circled around the arena. Even though she couldn't tell me, I could see the happiness on her face and the joy in her eyes in the indirect light from the fireworks.
There have only been a select few other times in my life where I've felt that proud. I really don't have the words to describe it, to be honest. It's a feeling that rises up from the pit of my stomach and causes my eyes to well up at the same time. It happened for the first time when I was a senior in high school - I caught my first long touchdown after riding the bench for 3+ years. It happened again that year when I crossed the finish line in 1st place to lead my track team to a league victory. I had to wait 3 years (almost to the day) to feel it again - I crossed the finish line in 1st place to become the 2005 NCAC 400m hurdle champion. Another 3 years went by before my wedding day made it happen again (thanks Mommy B)! Most recently was on October 27th, 2010 - when my beautiful baby girl was brought into this world.
But this past weekend brought all those memories rushing back again - and I totally wasn't expecting it. But I couldn't help it after seeing something that my family created over a hundred years ago still bring so much joy to those in the audience... but most importantly to my own child. Seeing Alli's face light up the way it did will be something I'll never forget - and I know it would have made my ancestors proud as well. Even though no one sitting around us knew about our special connection, it felt like Alli and I were the only people watching the show as she sat on my lap in utter amazement. One thing is for sure, I can't wait to do it all over again with Baby M #2 when they are old enough to go.
After the initial excitement wore off, Alli started getting a little antsy. But with an intermission to get her hopped up on cotton candy (thanks to Aunt Bacon) and a souvenir tiger, we were able to settle her back in for the remainder of the show. I have to say she was quite the trooper for sitting (for the most part) in my lap for 2.5 hours with all that was going on. I'm sure if she could have made her way to the arena floor to see everything up close, she would have. Just as she was getting really restless, the grand finale started and she was sucked back in again. I mean, who could look away when a guy gets lit on fire and shot from a giant crossbow across the length of the arena? There's nothing quite like seeing the reflection of the flames in your daughters eyes as she follows them across the sky.
Even though I'm pretty sure she won't remember her first trip to the circus, I know I certainly will.