There was no time to prepare you, we were running late. The show was about to begin, we had to take our seats. I pushed you through the heavy canvas opening, into the darkened arena. I’m not sure how much you could see, your eyesight is blurred even with your powerful bifocals.
What did you see first?
Was it the red velvet carpet laid over the sawdust covered ring? Was it the faces of the audience, eagerly anticipating the start of the show. A show they’d been anticipating for days, weeks or months perhaps. Talking excitedly in the days leading up to their visit about what they would see. I often think that anticipation is the best part of the good and wonderful experiences we have in life. And when I stop to think that you do not live life like this it makes me sad. It shouldn’t. It really shouldn’t.
The tiniest of spiralling particles caught your eye as the spotlight fell. You had no idea what this was, where you were or what was about to happen.
I knew what to expect. At least, I thought I did. Yet, somehow, you knew how to anticipate something you did not understand. You picked up on the atmosphere. You understood you were somewhere new, somewhere exciting, somewhere different.
You were not afraid. You were not alone, of course. I was by your side, my eyes were talking to you over the sound of the band that had struck up loudly; reassuring you, letting you see that this new experience was a good one. I held your ear defenders in case you needed them, but you pushed my hand away.
Curiosity was your ticket to the circus. You were born with a lifetime membership.
And unlike most people, you have never learnt how to live your life without it.
Mexican music filled the tent and your curiosity took you right into the heart of the Mariachi band. There you were, in the midst of the violinists, trumpeters, guitarists, vihuela and accordion players, though you never left your wheelchair.
Curiosity made you listen and led you straight into a dance.
You did not dance as though no one was watching, for it would not matter to you what others think. You danced anyway.
Curiosity said this was what you should do, so you did it. Curiosity called you, moved you, as it always does.
Your ticket to the Circus was the same price as everyone else’s, though you entered via a different doorway and were given a different ringside seat to the rest of the audience. And I’m thankful for the Front of House Team who went out of their way to welcome you to the Circus. They sought you out even from a distance as I wheeled you across the field; not to turn you away but to honour you and make you feel welcomed.
I have a feeling that those who live their lives in the Circus are born with the same ticket as you. They know that curiosity is a sacred thing.
You saw the same acrobats perform as I did; you saw trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, musicians, dancers, actors as they told us a story. A story of triumph and joy, formed over years of practice, of falls, of knocks, of getting it wrong, of picking themselves up and starting again. Of determination, of commitment, of blood, sweat and tears, of silliness and joy, of community, of travelling to unknown destinations and pitching their tents in strange places, of wondering at times if they are going to make it. Of an uncertain but exhilarating future.
We went to the Circus with hundreds of others last week, yet I believe you saw more, experienced more and took more from it than anyone else in that tent that day.
Years ago I was told by well meaning people that it would be kinder for you and for me if you were not born; only because you have Down’s syndrome. They did not know that bolted onto your extra Chromosome was a Golden Ticket of Curiosity with a ringside seat.
And I’m convinced that you still have the best view.