The Circus Birthday

Seven years ago, Wes and I were driving from home to the seminary when we got stopped at a set of train tracks. This was a very common thing in the Handley neighborhood, but what was decidedly UN-common that day was that the train cars zipping past us had a distinctive logo on their sides. Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus.

“IT’S THE CIRCUS TRAIN!,” I remember shouting at Wes, who seemed surprised that I was so excited about this. What can I say? The thought of all those animals and performers making their way into downtown Fort Worth for a week of shows, all the places they must see, all the thrills of live performances for an entire season — it all sounded much more exciting than heading to the seminary for classes, studying, and janitorial work. Believe it or not. Back when I was a theater major (or theatre, if we’re being pretentious), this was the kind of work I figured I could get one day. Yes, going to college for four years… so I could run away with the circus. My parents would have been so proud.

Anyway, my exuberance over the train led Wes to surprise me with tickets to the show, a luxury that we couldn’t afford back then. I was so excited, and when July 23, 2005 rolled around, I was probably MORE excited than the majority of the kids who gathered at the Convention Center for the show. I remember telling Wes that night that the only thing that could be better than watching the circus would be watching our someday children watch the circus.

Fast forward SEVEN years. Life took us places where the circus just didn’t come, and before we knew it, we had two wee ones who weren’t all that wee but NO circus visits. I substituted as best as I could with repeated showings of Dumbo, but it’s just not the same. I had given up on the dream until Wes told me that Ringling Bros. was coming to Houston in July, just in time for the girls’ birthdays. It took little convincing to have the girls ready for their very first circus adventure, thanks to all those viewings of Dumbo. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday was the big day, and everyone was super excited when we got up that morning. After some yard work and some errands, we finally picked up the girls’ birthday cake, had lunch, and jumped in the car to head over to Reliant Stadium for the show.

We quickly got an awesome parking spot and trekked over to the entrance… where we waited for about thirty minutes. Better early than late! We were the first in the doors to go and see the animals, who were in the backstage area hanging out and snacking. Ana wasn’t too enthused about this, but Emma…

… was in elephant heaven! (She thought they were equally excited to see her, as she insisted that they were “smiling.” And they kind of were, around the big clumps of food that they were chowing down on.)

After blowing many kisses and making animal sounds towards the horses, the tigers, and ALL of the elephants, we made our way into the main arena for the pre-show…

This wasn’t nearly as thrilling as we had envisioned, so we gave up our front row seats to discover other parts of the kids’ area. As soon as we did, the elephants came out to do some tricks. Of course. And then, the girls couldn’t see a thing, thanks to all of the adults who pushed their way past where we were and stood right in front of our tiny girls. Really, people? Even I, as exuberant as I was back in 2005, knew to get out of the way for the little kids. Who is all of this really for anyway? It’s like the grown men at Walt Disney World who elbow their way past toddlers in a line to meet the princesses. Really? You know they’re just normal women (who think you’re super creepy!) in costumes, right? I just don’t get it.

Anyway, there was more fun to be had in other areas of the pre-show, so we left before I could go all Mama Chimp on these people and start beating them down on behalf of all mothers everywhere. Ahem.

We enjoyed the costume area…

… and, of course, snacks.

Because what’s a Faulkette event without cotton candy and popcorn? And Papi wearing a red clown nose?

“Well, this was fun!,” Ana said as we finally made our way to our seats. She thought that we had done the circus already, before the show even began. And THAT, my friends, is a sign of a really good pre-show.

Things got started really quickly after that, and it was sensory overload for the girls. I had never thought about it before, but there’s a lot going on during the circus, making it difficult to know what exactly to focus on. They likely missed half of what was happening because there was too much to see! Ana loved the miniature horses running around the ring, and Emma loved every single thing that the clowns did. By the time intermission came around, both girls were looking a little tired and more interested in playing with their newly acquired souvenirs. The second half opened up with Ana’s favorite, the tigers, but they had long since lost most of her attention since the kid in front of us had gotten himself a light-up neon mohawk during intermission. (Hey, it even caught my attention when he put it on and it started flashing at us.) The girls did perk up when one of the performers lit himself on fire and catapulted across the arena (not making this up, y’all), but by the time the elephants came for their show, their attention was gone again. Which might have been a good thing, given that at least three of the elephants were having some serious tummy issues. (And I have to give major kudos to the PA who ran around with a shovel, taking care of the issue before it could even hit the floor, literally. It’s like she could predict which elephant would go before he/she went, and she was right there, catching it mid-air! Had I ever joined the circus, I would have thought this would be the type of job they’d give me, but my poo prediction skills are lacking, so even THIS would be above my skill set. Sad day, y’all.)

(And now, you’re all thinking of that old Newsboys song, Reality, aren’t you? I know I am.)

After the elephants exited the arena, I whispered to Wes that we should probably get going since the girls were already mentally gone, so we hustled it out of the arena. The show concluded about ten minutes later, so we picked up the girls and ran back to the car so as to beat the traffic coming out of Reliant Park. Which we did.

All in all, the girls had a GREAT time at the circus. And being there with them was every bit as wonderful as we imagined it would be seven years ago…

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