Monthly Archives: July 2018

Escape to the Circus

I used to threaten to run away to the circus. But Mom refused to drive me there. So, I gave up.

Decades later, I decided to attend one. Not just any circus. This one starred kids — Little Leaguers, 4-H ribbon winners, teen hamburger flippers — who reside in a town nestled among cornfields.

I’d known about the Peru, Indiana, Amateur Youth Circus all my life, but never went. Research for a novel sent me to this circus’s spring practice.

As I entered the arena, unicycles nearly ran me down. Diving into a restroom, I considered changing my novel’s setting to a hospital.

I peeked out. No more unicycles. No one swallowing swords. Just everyday children carrying gym bags. I followed them inside.

Adults clustered on bleachers, talking and helping kids with homework. A gold-scrolled wagon — the concession stand — emitted a fragrance of hot, buttered popcorn. Research can be wonderful.

Above, adults climbed webs of ropes resembling the work of overachieving spiders. Below, teens and children hauled equipment without once mentioning child labor laws.

A herd of little kids wearing leotards lined up to turn “somersaults” — mostly belly flops. But they didn’t quit.

Neither did grade-school jugglers practicing with Hacky Sacks®. The “old guys,” who had shaved maybe once, flipped clubs under legs and high in the air, missing most of the people climbing around the ceiling.

I greatly admired the jugglers. From afar.

When more kids hung from the ceiling than clothes in my closet, I white-knuckled my seat. Children swung on trapezes and spun on cables. One teen girl shinnied up another walking a wire 10 feet above the floor. The walker shuddered. The long pole she carried shuddered. I shuddered.

But the walker regained her balance. The climber slowly rose above the walker’s shoulders, legs shaking — then dropped.

I nearly swallowed my grandma fist.

The climber fell into a net. She bounced nonchalantly then dismounted.

A few more practices, and the paramedics and I were on a first-name basis.

That July, though, Hubby and I returned to see the actual show. Would these super-spangled young circus stars live up to their billing?

Did they ever. No belly flops for the little tumblers. They somersaulted and cartwheeled. Bigger children soared above trampolines and flipped friends onto each others’ shoulders. Performers balanced on bicycles, unicycles, enormous sparkly balls. They hung from hoops, rings and trapezes. Some spun, hanging by ankles, necks and teeth. The jugglers tossed fiery clubs. We watched high wire walkers perform a seven-girl pyramid act.

My buds, the paramedics, stood by.

I didn’t faint once. And I couldn’t wait until the next July.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your favorite circus memories?

Tell It to the Telemarketers

Lately, I’ve been inundated by phone calls. I must be very popular — far more so than when I was in high school.

Some callers vibrate with the enthusiasm of an over-caffeinated game show host. I’ve won cruises, resort stays, free lunches at a funeral home! If I promise to die soon.

I also receive helpful calls from Tibetan yak milkers named Paul: “Your com-pu-ter sick. Do what I say.”

Goodbye, Paul.

When a caller uses impressive cyber vocabulary, I apply my husband’s astute observation: we can’t reach IT when we need them. Now they’re calling us out of the goodness of their hearts?

Charity calls often are made by ladies who sound like my third-grade teacher. I’m so sorry, Mrs. Daugherty. But, unlike Congress, Hubby and I stay within our budget.

Other callers sound like Al Capone. Because I’ve hidden huge assets from the government, the IRS has custom-designed cement shoes for me. Unless I grant immediate access to my bank accounts, I will take up residence at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

So far, I haven’t had to develop gills.

Occasionally, though, I experience shortness of breath when asked to take “two-minute surveys” that morph into interrogations.

The worst part? They never want to take mine.

This year, my birthday generated a gazillion new phone fans: Medicare supplement companies. Some representatives get right to the point: “Are you breathing?”

“No.”

Click.

 I’ve declared myself dead to a hundred insurance telemarketers. Still, they call.

Representatives whose mothers taught them manners inquire, “How are you?”

Since they’re nice enough to ask, I tell them.

“This weather bothers my knees something awful, though my aunt Tildy’s ankles gave her even more trouble. Goose grease worked, but it made her socks slide down. …”

Or, “I’m so upset. My garbage can blew away. Finally found it. But one step into that yard, and a Doberman big as a pony licked me like I was a giant doggy treat!”

When glum telemarketers call, I make every effort to cheer them: “I feel like singing! Hey, let’s sing together! A-one, a-two, a-three …”

Sadly, few join in belting out “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Despite their lack of patriotism — and my membership on the no-call list — phones keep ringing. Not only do telemarketers inundate my landline, but using local numbers, they now call my cell phone.

I’ve considered answering with heavy breathing.

Friends advise, “Don’t pick up! Ignore a number you don’t recognize.”

But such rude behavior would lower me to their level.

Besides, free speech is granted even to telemarketers. As long as they don’t use abusive language, they can call me.

(snicker) If they dare.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite turn-off-the-telemarketer technique?

Lilies of the Field

Near our yard’s edges, orange lilies accentuate the breathtaking beauty of street signs: speed limit, street name, even dead-end.

Surely, no one deliberately planted flowers of such pathetic pedigree. These gangly commoners share none of the refinement of day lilies, their aristocratic cousins.

Whoever nurtured mine did not stop with signs. She/he invited them to surround the patio, where an army of orange sentinels stand at attention. Neither horizontal rain, windstorm, nor hail beat them down. Nothing short of a nuclear blast prevents their annual return.

I know this because their anonymous planter also nurtured them around our mailbox — until my husband, replacing it, obliterated the lily bulbs.

Undaunted, the invaders returned, only to be mowed down again and again. And again.

Stubborn? Worse than a gang of telemarketers.

Why, then, did I transfer orange lily shoots to a spot near our front door?

Um … maybe the gardener who introduced the lilies wasn’t so dumb. Perhaps, like me, she/he was desperate. I had nicknamed that flower bed the “Sahara.”

Morning glories, petunias, zinnias, marigolds — none of my usual stalwarts had survived it. Would I have to comb the Internet for Martian cacti?

Instead, I planted lily shoots. Three days later, they had not shriveled.

Gasp! What had I done?

Yet, I could not yank them. I just … kind of forgot to water them.

Finally, the hopeful sprigs disintegrated into yellow July dust. I could forget my embarrassing temporary insanity.

Until the following March. Tiny, green leaves stuck out, na-na-na-boo-boo tongues that grew into spindly plants.

How could I pull them? They have flourished unpampered.

I rarely talk to the lilies. Other plants do not socialize with them. We all fear they will take over the yard — maybe the world.

Though I wouldn’t mind if they conquered the crabgrass.

Vases chock full of lilies do brighten my mantels. My dining room table. My piano. …

All right, so my deep, dark secret is out.

I have plebian tastes. I like orange lilies.

These flowers scorn Better Homes and Gardens ratings. They grow in vacant lots, parking lots, behind Big Lots. Their determination to cover their world with beauty knows no limits.

I must have passed down my plebian tastes to a daughter. Scorning roses for her senior picture, she held a cluster of orange lilies.

Funny, her people bouquets consist of the unsung, too. She gathers needy children, cherishing beauty bypassed by others. Maybe the wealth of orange lilies edging her fence inspire her days.

As mine should.

Anyone blessed with orange-lilyfied street signs — even a dead-end one — is bound to see her world in a beautiful way.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What “plebian” flowers do you like?