Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Little Girls at the Carnival

There was a carnival in town and I watched from the sidelines as Carmelita the Clown spoke to a small group of children. The group stood in a short line. The boys and girls waited their turn for Carmelita to speak to them individually. Two little girls watched and waited. They had their hands folded, as if in a prayer or expectant anticipation. They listened carefully to what Carmelita was saying to the children ahead of them. I suppose that they wanted to say the right things when their turn came. The look on their faces was beautiful – they both smiled in wonder and in awe at the woman who played so well the role of a caring and loving clown. Carmelita was very kind and patient with each child as she or he responded to the questions that Carmelita asked them. The questions were very simple – where they were from, what their favorite colors were, did they like being at the carnival.
All around the group, for as far as I could see, were the delights of the small-town carnival. Big and small rides swirled in the distance. A Ferris Wheel rose and turned majestically in the late afternoon sky. All colors and shapes of bright neon lights adorned the rides and the chance and food booths. The walkways everywhere were lined with colored posters of fairy-tale lore – dragons, princesses and princes, lions and bears, palaces and distant planets. The posters enshrined the doorways and walls of the rides, as well as the food and game chance booths and “shooting galleries” with their moving plastic ducks and water guns.
Directly behind the two little girls as they stared entranced at Carmelita was a large work of art. They could have touched it; it was that close to them. It was a palace that rose to the sky, its turrets reaching to the clouds. On the turrets there were men and women, dressed in their medieval finery, waving and smiling, as if they could really see Carmelita and the wonders she was working with the hearts of the children. But of course it was all make believe and the only things that moved were the line and the smiles and eyes of the two little girls. Their hands stayed folded.
“Life is a Carnival,” or so goes the title of the song by the Band. And I suppose that it is, for young and old alike. Our ways get more expensive and fantastic as we get older. The stuff of make-believe gives way to what is real and what we can buy or invest in. We learn to seek out midways near and far, lined with all that life can bring, and we of course hope to get something good for free, be it a stuffed bear in our youth or a later lottery winning. .
But every now and then, someone can and should make us open our eyes in wonder. And like those two children, the looming promises of dreams may rise within our reach, but we are so absorbed in what is right before us that we pay it no mind. For someone is then speaking and our hearts are moved, we smile, and our eyes open wide. Perhaps it is when the meaning of life reveals itself to us, and we are stopped dead in our tracks with the delight of it all, and realize that it was everywhere, all around us and within us, awaiting the right time to speak. It is that close to us. We can touch it.

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