They say that in Vermont there are two seasons: Mud season and snow
the rest of the year. In our house there are still only two, but
slightly different: Circus Camp and waiting the rest of the year for
it to be time for Circus Camp. Right now there is just one month left
to go in the official countdown. We only have to turn the calendar one
more page and that magical time will be upon us.
When T was five I took him to his first Circus Smirkus show. It was
all about the Wild West. I don’t remember many details, except the
safe falling from a great height and “flattening” the robbers. T
watched those clowns, enraptured. Have you ever seen someone fall in
love, the way it captures all of their attention, the way the rest of
the world slowly falls away—that’s what it was like.
As soon as T was old enough, he started going to sleepaway circus
camp. At first he was gone for a few days, then a week, and now it’s
two weeks every summer. I have to believe that the friends, the
jokes,the running, the calisthenics, and costumes will be the memories
that he revisits when he is older. See, each morning the kids have to
run a mile. The days are filled with instructions, practicing and
games like pieing your counselor with a plate of shaving cream. But
each night at camp there is a different dress up theme: pirates,
zombies vs ninjas, gender bender, superheroes, dressing like your
counselor. It really doesn’t get better than this. Once the kids put
on those clothes they become someone else for the night. The thrill of
pretend, if only for an evening; then the planning for the next dinner
Each of the kids who attend the camp at this level have a speciality.
For some it’s aerials, or acro. Some specialize in climbing the
Chinese poles, twirling the Diablo, rolling on the globe, or walking
the tightrope. T feels most at home juggling, be it balls, rings or
clubs. He’s not picky, three of anything will do. We’ve caught him
more than once with plates, books, fruit. And thanks to a broken
(handpainted) lampshade, there is no juggling allowed in the house.
At the end of each camp session the parents are invited up for a show,
put on by the kids. The campers are all dressed in their show attire.
Most everyone has on makeup of some sort. The clowns though, go all
out. Their over-the-top, suitably outrageous smiles can be seen quite
plainly from even the furthest rows. There are happy clowns, and sad
clowns. Tall ones, short ones. Clowns that are in charge, and others
that try to follow orders; though the audience is happiest when
something goes awry.
For the clowns it is all about timing. They rely on gestures, the
pratfalls, the slapstick and the connections. T fancies himself a
clown, and with his red curly hair I would say that he well on his
way. This type of performance comes naturally to him. Sometimes the
lines between life and show start to blur for him. There is no face
that he has to prepare it just comes out when he needs it to. Each
time I see him on stage, my chest swells and tightens. I am nervous, I
am proud. Truthfully the moment the kids start coming through the
curtain, the moment they step foot on the stage, I become a blubbering
mess. Some of the kids I have met over the years, some I do not know.
It doesn’t matter. That look of pride and concentration on their faces
is what gets me, every time. I am anxious for them, I keep my fingers
crossed that everything will go as they want it to. That they will
cross that tightrope, hang on to that fabric, and time their joke
exactly right for a crowd-roaring, gut-busting laugh. Right next to
me, holding my hand, my husband will be laughing. He loves the circus.
He is happiest in these bleachers, a look of pure joy on his face.
Which is why in addition to T’s performance, well be watching the
official Smirkus show no less than three times this summer. What can I
say, we love a good show, and these kids never fail to entertain and
At each performance, both for the kids at camp and the official
trouper show, I try not to wear too much mascara lest I be called
raccoon eyes. At least I know I am in good company, chances are there
are a few other parents in the audience who are crying as much as I
am. At the circus all faces are truly happy ones, even through the
For more information about the Circus Smirkus show touring near you, click here.
To find out more about their fabulous camps, click here.
To check out the amazing documentary, Circus Dreams, click here.