Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Barbara Farmer has been coming to my Monday women’s AWA workshop, Writing from the Heart, for several years. You can still hear traces of her Queens, New York, roots in her speech, though she lives in Leesburg now. A retired RN of 38 years, Barbara is married with two children, Jennifer and Michael, and two grandchildren, Kaitlyn and Aaron. Since her retirement, Barbara has enjoyed traveling, cooking, reading, visiting museums, walking—and now writing!
Here is one of Barbara’s treasured memories from childhood. Enjoy!
About My Daddy
As children growing up in New York’s Borough of Queens, my siblings and I looked forward to going to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. The circus came to town every springtime, and Daddy would take my sister Phyllis and brother Billy one year, then my sister Margie and me the next. Daddy knew someone who gave him three tickets every season without fail. Those tickets were extra special because they were box seats at the center ring!
I remember Madison Square Garden as a cavernous mammoth. There were thousands of seats arranged in orderly, steep, graded aisles that felt a little threatening to a seven year old. It gave a feeling of flying to your seats rather than walking to them. The smell of popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy filled the air, along with sounds of growls, roars, and bellows from the “crew” of lions, tigers, elephants and monkeys.
Before the performance Daddy had to take us to the sideshow to witness strange people, such as the sword swallower, the fire eater, the fat lady, the tallest man and shortest woman on earth. The colors were a myriad of garish reds, yellows, blues and greens. The sideshow was a thrill with scary mixed in.
Daddy reveled in this spectacle, with his big toothy smile that simply radiated joy. He took our hands all the way down to the box seats at the center ring. The ring was strewn with straw, and no sooner were we seated than the most famous clown in circus history appeared: the one and only Emmett Kelly. He was “Weary Willie,” a hobo who wore tattered clothes and brown, crunchy, baggy pants, torn and weathered. The expression on his face was droll. A white paint traced his lips downward. Brown eyes were droopy with tears of blackened drops that lay on his face. He desperately tried to sweep the big spotlight that was reflected on the floor as the motion of the broom slowly diminished the shrinking light. He looked at the three of us with such sadness, but as a small child, even then, I could see him smile at me through that sad face.
Daddy had tears in his eyes too, but he was in his element at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey three-ring circus at Madison Square Garden.
“About My Daddy” © 2016 by Barbara Farmer