I’ve been writing for a long time, since before blogging began! I ‘m going through my tear sheets (from hard copy print before digital) and old blog posts, pulling out some of the gems for a Best Of collection. Today brought to mind an old favorite and new thoughts to go along with it. The original version was published on my alter ego’s blog in 2008 when my youngest was off to college. Hope you enjoy this update ~
The world will never forget Labor Day weekend 1997, when we sat transfixed to our televisions watching the tragic conclusion of the real-life sequel to the Cinderella fairytale, the death of Princess Diana.
A Labor Day Weekend hasn’t passed since then, without the images of Princess Diana’s last moments swirling around in my head with the memories of my own personal drama that weekend. Her night on the town in Paris, the wrecked car, the notes of condolence and profusion of flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace, my grief at her death mingling with my crushed hopes for my oldest daughter—too young married and too young pregnant, all refracted in a crazy kaleidoscopic montage of the day I almost, finally, ran away with the circus.
I’d talked about it for years, thought about it since I was a child. My favorite Dr. Seuss books was If I Ran the Circus, though I didn’t so much want to run it as I wanted to be a part of it. I thought living in a wagon (okay, an RV) and traveling across the country with a band of eccentric make believers would be the life for me. No worries about acting a fool or regrets for past mistakes because I’d always be leaving town the next day.
As a teenager, I crooned Goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus, into my hairbrush when nobody could hear me. I had it bad.
That day twenty years ago, when I almost made the break, I was very much stuck in the middle of my child raising years (talk about a three ring circus with three daughters). My oldest was still relentlessly pecking me near to death despite having flown from the nest. The middle child was testing her wings now that big sister’s shadow wasn’t blocking her time in the sun, and the youngest was, well, young. I was so tired.
Then that circus came into town, on the very weekend Princess Di proved once and for all the fairy tale was a lie and the best I could hope for in life was to hang onto the illusion for my own sanity’s sake. My grip was slipping.
I dragged myself from beneath the covers of the blanket fort where I’d retreated after the last exhausting battle with oldest child. Daddy, toddler and I trotted off to see the show.
At intermission, the ring master (a woman no less, running the circus!) announced that they would be hiring a crew to take down the tents and pack up the show after the final performance. Then she said the words that made my heart stop. “We’re also filling permanent positions. If anybody has ever dreamed of running away with the circus, now’s your chance.”
My brain and mouth connected so fast there was no stopping the declaration that leapt from my lips. I shot up from my seat and right in front of the entire tiny population of our tiny little town I raised my hand as high as I could reach and shouted “I want to go!”
In that moment, I knew how Princess Di felt just the night before, wildly fleeing the relentless demands of her life, taking the chance at getting away from her dogged pursuers just one time. I knew exactly who the circus folk were, too. I knew why they traveled, made no ties, set no roots. And I knew everything I would leave behind. I sat down, held my daughter’s hand through the rest of the show and went home with my family when it was over. Life went on without the fairytale ending.
According to an interview with firefighter Xavier Gourmelon, just released by The Sun, Princess Diana’s last words to the first responder on the rescue team were, “My God, what’s happened?”
Once again, this Labor Day weekend, I’m thinking of the day happily ever after died, and I almost ran away with the circus to write a different ending.
Indeed, my God, what happened?
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I’m blogging along with Effy Wild this month. Some posts will be here, and some will be on my alter Ego’s site at MAD Goddess. Want to learn more. Click on here.