(To protect the privacy and/or safety of certain individuals, some names—well actually only one—has been changed in the following.)
I have aviophobia, a fear of flying—the kind that drives me to straighten my closet and vacuum the corners of my silverware drawer before a flight because I’m probably not coming back—so when a daughter of mine who I’ll call, um let’s say Polly, texted me from New York’s JFK airport TSA line to tell me she was coincidentally coming home on the same flight as our church rector, Fr. Jeremiah, I said Phew. That’s a good sign you’ll probably make it home, with him on the flight too.
She was glad I wasn’t there to say something so lame to him and embarrass her. I thought it was kind of funny, you know, using junk theology and superstition to make a humorous comment. Polly disagreed. She doesn’t appreciate some of my humor.
It takes me back to what a serious child she was. A no-nonsense person. Accepted no guff from anyone. If Grandpa tried to steal her nose and show it between his fingers, she’d denounce him for thinking his thumb was anything but a thumb. If other children played a game of make believe, she’d excuse herself and go talk to the adults. If a clown— Oh wait! I’ve got to tell you about the clown.
For my niece’s birthday party at my parents’ home in the Rockrimmon subdivision, my sister hired a clown. She was the cutest, nicest clown who just loved kids. Until that day, anyway. Polly, being uncomfortable with silliness, didn’t cope well with such a close up and personal encounter with a clown. Initially, it manifested with vocal disclaimers from Polly and I should have escorted her away at that first clue this wasn’t going to go well. When the heckling started and I tried to give the Mom Stare from across the crowd to silence her, I should have just gone ahead made a scene and removed her. It would have been a lesser disruption. But I held out hope. Silly me. The clown used her many years of experience with children to know she might try to include the little rascal who was giving her such grief from the audience, so she invited Polly up to be a part of her magic trick. Oh my! What a mistake. Polly announced to the audience what a sham the whole thing was, how the trick was done, and that there wasn’t a bit of magic involved. I was mortified. Horrified. Afterwards, I insisted Polly write a letter of apology and did so myself as well. I knew deep down it was because Polly was trying to cope with her discomfort, but the embarrassment eclipsed everything.
Fast forward a couple of years. We are at an event across town for families and the kids are lining up for something happening at the other end. It’s a big line, it looks like it’s going to be good. The kids ahead of us are having a blast. We inch forward, and down the line comes a clown. Uh oh. I brace. Then again, it’s a chance to practice what we might have learned (besides Grab Polly And Run) so we stay in queue. The clown is working her way down the line to entertain the waiting children, coming first to Charlie. She pretends to connect the dots of the freckles on his face. He giggles. It’s fun. Then she sees Spencer, and entertains him with a different game, then Pierce. She notices they all look related. She asks, are you brothers? Are you triplets? They point to their sister and tell her not triplets, there are four of them.
Her head snaps around, examining each of my four children. Her face drops. Her eyes open, and she cries out, “The Rockrimmon Quadruplets!”
Once again, I’m mortified. She remembers us. We have a reputation. We scarred a clown forever.
Polly still doesn’t like silliness, or goofy humor, or lame magic tricks. And I gave up on the Mom Stare a long time ago. But at least now, if I see a clown and Polly is anywhere around, I’m smart enough to know to get the heck out of Dodge. As fast as possible. Before the clown sees us. Just in case he’s heard about us.
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