Friday, June 26, 2009

A Life Lesson from a Horrible Wonderful Clown

I’m going through a “life lessons” phase right now. Just ask my eighteen Facebook friends (I think my lack of Facebook friends is itself a a life lesson, but I haven’t figured out what it is yet).

The life lessons – three thus far – are nuggets of pure wisdom that have been part of my psyche for sometime but that have recently pulled themselves together and been revealed to me as concepts for life. Pores of my consciousness, if you will, that have been clogged for a while, but that have come to a head and are now Pimples of Truth. Had enough? I’ll move on.

Well, it was in this frame of mind that I was observing a particularly freckly model in a back issue of GQ and I was reminded of a local clown who was something of a fixture in my childhood. Freckles was his name (see how the GQ model ties into it?)

Freckles wasn’t a good clown, as I remember. I don’t think he actually did anything. He was very old and just kind of tottered around in funny clothes and handed out candy . . . not unlike my grandparents, come to think of it.

He reminded me of George Burns. In fact, I told him that once when he was poolside performing (?) at a party at the Pensacola Country Club (I was a guest of a country club member, naturally). When Freckles came near the edge of the pool, I said, “You remind me of George Burns.” He responded, “I’m waiting for him to die so I can get his glasses.” This statement, I now realize, is a horrible thing for a clown to say to a child. But again, Freckles wasn’t a very good clown.

The only think, really, that made him a clown was the red and while outfit, the white-with-red-spots face paint, and the honest-to-God clown car (a Volkswagen Bug, no less). But in his horrible clown fashion, he’d bolted to the roof of the car a life-sized plastic clown head. Quite morbid, I see in retrospect.

But as bad as he was, I’m glad I was influenced to respect and love Freckles by my mother, who seemed to have a special affection for the clown, and claimed to have even been to his home-slash-junk shop. I’m glad I loved that guy, because he taught me a life lesson.

It happened on a Saturday in September. An annual parade marched down the rather insignificant street off of which branched the rather insignificant cul de sac, on which was my boyhood home. I stood on the side of the road watching the marching band, the police on horseback, the street sweepers cleaning up the dung (those damn kids in the marching band never knew how to hold it). Down my side of the road walked Freckles. He was handing out Tootsie Rolls to children and walking at a steady pace. He didn’t throw the candy, I assume, because this action would probably have hurled him to the ground.

Freckles walked toward me and held out a Tootsie Roll for me to take. For some reason I didn’t grab it; I hesitated. I may have been star struck or flattered that Freckles would acknowledge even me. I may have been shy or timid and waiting for a more firm invitation to take this candy from a stranger (an invitation I would have gladly accepted). Either way, the Tootsie Roll was snatched out of the clown’s hand by some kids who ran up to him. My tootsie roll. Stolen and run off with. The outrage!

Freckles kind of looked at me and shrugged, gave an uncomfortable chuckle, and walked on. He was teetering at a good clip, as I said.

The moment has stayed with me, obviously. And the reaction of Freckles haunted me. Was he laughing at me? Why didn’t he just hand me a new one? Wasn’t that a little mean of him when I’m obviously a good kid and deserving of a reward?

No, I’ve come to realize. It wasn’t cruel. It was life. It was a life lesson. Freckles’ reaction said simply, “Sorry kid, you had your chance, but I’ve gotta go.”

I could type for another hour explaining the ramifications and the lesson further, but I’ll let you figure the rest out from here. Just remember with me the Lesson of Saint Freckles (is it sacrilegious to canonize a clown?) "Don't be afraid to take it". And don’t let the horrible beauty of the freckled clown throw you. You can have it of you want it. There it is. Take it.

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