Friday, August 04, 2006

Hot, Hot, Hot

It was the hottest day of the year. My three-year-old and I were under a tent, circus tent that is.
It was Circus Smirkus, the kid's circus from Vermont, performing at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. I'm not a big fan of the circus, but I am a sucker for anything from Vermont, and as another parent commented, at least we didn't have to fight our way through a crowd of animal rights protesters on our way in or feel squeamish watching the "sad elephant" perform.
We were unusually early to the performance. I mistakenly thought the show would be inside the museum's grounds and that there would be time for a ride on the carousel before the show. In reality the tent is set up outside the actual museum, so we ended up being very early without anything much to do once we arrived.
Surprisingly, my son had fallen asleep in the car, which normally means I would get to listen to NPR for 15 minutes in peace but the heat being what it was, staying in the car wasn't an option.
We wasted a bit of time walking up to the regular entrance and being told we had to go down to where the tent was set up to retrieve our e-tickets. We picked up our tickets and found a shady spot to sit down in for a half-hour. Good pseudo-reporter that I am, I'd brought my notebook with me so I entertained myself by making a sketch of the big top. My son entertained himself by asking me was that I was drawing, (what do you mean you can't tell?).
One bottle of spring water later it was time to cue up to enter the tent.
I began noticing that all the other children and adults were waving cardboard fans, purchased at the merchandising tent which we had cleverly steered clear of. Friends commented that the fans would probably be the biggest selling souvenir of the day and we remarked that the cast had probably been busy the night before xeroxing and assembling the fans.
For the record, Circus Smirkus is a phenomenal group of talented teenagers. Their ability to perform a spirited show despite oppressive heat is a testament to their talent. This blog however is not about Circus Smirkus, it's about my insecurities as a parent. Let's just get that straight. No circus reviews here, though I did take copious notes for a potential story in next year's In Season so stay tuned.
So there we are, inside the tent, with another 15 minutes to go before show time.
The tent is only about one-quarter full; all the sensible parents having bailed out on account of the oppressive heat.
I thought I was prepared, with two bottles of water and a bag of Cheerios but as I look around I realize that two bottles of water is completely inadequate. Parents, parents who care about their children that is, are passing out apple juices and even ice packs.
The kids are allowed to sit on the ground just in front of the ring. As I said, it's a sparse crowd which is good because that leaves lots of elbow room for fan waving, and there's a lot of it going on. In fact I realize that every child in our section has a fan except for mine.
Some grandparents are sitting in the lowest bleachers actually fanning their grandchildren, who are seated on the ground..
I've always thought that those hand-held fans were a bit of a scam. It seems like the energy you expend waving them around vastly out weighs any benefit acquired from the small amount of breeze that's generated. That's the reason why, in mosaics from the Roman empire, it's always slaves fanning the Emperor and not the Emperor fanning himself. It's probably just as effective to simply sit still and exert no energy whatsoever, I think the Spanish call it siesta.
I'm alone in this rationale however and instead of a vendor selling popcorn and peanuts the fan hawker begins circling the ring. "Get your personal Circus Smirkus air conditioner here, only one dollar," he says.
He comes back later peddling personal-sized electric fans for five dollars. It seems like a steal, he could have easily sold them for $20. A few indulgent parents shell out. Most of the children in our section still just have the human-powered models. Again, everyone but my son. He's looking kind of flushed. I climb down from my seat and encourage him to take off his floppy hat. His hair is matted and wet as we wait under the lights for the show to begin.
The heat is getting to me. I begin to obsess. What if he passes out? It's so hot it could happen. I can see the headline, "only child at Circus Smirkus without a fan, faints in heat."
I start rooting around my pocketbook for a dollar. The hawker is on the other side of the tent. What if he sells out before he gets back to our section? Determined, I grasp my dollar, make my way across the tent, and purchase the fan.
I climb back down and hand it to my son. He looks at if foreignly. As if he hasn't even noticed that he's sitting in a sea of hand-held fans and that everyone around him is waving one.
He begins to fan in the wrong direction. He is fanning away from himself towards the middle of the tent. There's no time for fanning lessons as the lights dim and the show begins. As the performers come out, all fanning ceases. I knew it! A dollar wasted!
At least he had fun showing it to his little brother when we got home.

song: Hot, Hot, Hot • artist: Buster Poindexter

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