Friday, December 11, 2009

Grease Paint

Silently behind the white face the clown becomes invisible and a new world is revealed.

It began as something fun for my children and me to do together. Clown classes. We dressed up and acted silly without anyone knowing it was us behind those white faces. My children would cringe to know I'm writing this as they consider their clowning careers an embarrassment.

My husband asked if I would take some of his students to witness the auditions for Ringling Brothers’ clown ally. One of the students wanted the experience so off we went to join the circus. I sat on the sidelines as Karin joined in the circle of newbys hoping to be the next Emmet Kelly. As usual, I cannot sit by passively. Soon I was chatting with veteran clowns totally enjoying the experience.

The Emmet Kelly doll was the last doll I ever received. Aunt Bess knew that I adored Emmet Kelly. He wooed me with his quiet manner, his simple movements, his expressive eyes. I was a child who adored this man would could make me laugh and cry without uttering a single word. He was one of a kind.

“Why don’t you try out,” said my new friend Scott, a clown in an usher suit. Tuba, Tammy and Tommy encouraged me as well. My new band of white faced friends. Never one to dodge a new experience, I walked into the middle of the circle where I was given a task to mime. A few weeks later I received a letter that I had been accepted into clown school for Ringling Bros.

Well, obviously, I didn’t go or I would be retired in sunny Florida or riding on the circus train to my next destination. I did go on to do Christian clowning. A step closer to the me who was evolving. This clown called Mij didn’t clown for children. No, she clowned for adults. Something happened behind the white face with no voice. I was aware of pain in the eyes of some, caution in the eyes of others. My eyes would meet another and the seeing heart knew understanding. I was innocence tentatively looking at eyes looking for answers and solace. Mij was invited to walk into a room and offer peace.

I don’t clown now and haven’t since I began embarrassing my children. Once in awhile someone will ask about Mij. She is gone, but I am here with her residing in the silent recesses of my heart. Now, minus the white grease paint, I can look into eyes of others and offer a listening ear and arms to hold.

From inside the white face, I found myself.

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