I don't think this particular memory is mentioned in my new book Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past & Present, but I used the "tools" mentioned in the book to come up with a detailed story of that day. And several times, I've started a poem called "Lost at the Carnival”, just never finished it. Hope you enjoy.- Lois J. Funk – Manito, Illinois
Dad drove all morning to get us there. Chicago: Riverview Amusement Park. Even my eleven-year-old sister, who already thought she was "too grown up" to associate with the younger two of us, was happy for the trip.
It was the biggest carnival we'd ever seen – one where the rides, booths, and fun house were put there to stay. Not like the fly-by-night one that came to our hometown every spring; roped off the main street and set up a merry-go-round and Ferris wheel; then tore it all down and moved on, all within a few short days.
Bright lights, cotton candy and Kewpie dolls, and barkers coaxing Dad to try his luck at shooting galleries and darts, flooded my head with fantasies as we sauntered along the midway.
While Dad herded us quickly past gimmicks and games, he couldn't ignore a free-standing glass cubical that loomed taller than his six-foot-one stature. The wall-to-wall platform inside the case was lower than my shoulder height, so he didn't have to lift me up to see the electric racetrack with two shiny red cars gliding smoothly around its curves. Side by side, the five of us stood there, with no one in front of us to block the view and no one waiting for us to Just once, I looked way up at Dad. I could tell by his smile that he was as fascinated with the cars as I was. Then, with my hands and nose to the glass, I got so engrossed in the scene that, if someone said, "Come on, let's go,” I didn't hear it. Nor did I notice when they all walked away.
But the next time I looked up, I saw that I was standing there alone.
My heart leapt to my throat. I turned in a circle, looking frantically for any sign of Mom or Dad or my sisters. Tears wet my cheeks. My family had disappeared, as surely as if we'd been playing Hide 'n' Seek and I'd been named “It.” The trouble was, they hadn't told me that the game was starting; they hadn't counted to ten; and they weren't offering a single clue as to where they were hiding.
Hoping not to be noticed, I moved slowly away from the glass case and the cars, tears increasing with each step. But I was noticed, by a friendly policeman who bent down and asked my name while assuring me that everything was going to be okay. What he didn’t know was that I was too bashful to open my mouth around strangers; that my mother or sisters always piped up and answered questions posed to me by people I didn't know or didn't want to answer. So where was my family now? Had they even noticed that I wasn't tagging along behind them or clinging to one of their hands.
My uncle was a policeman, so I had no fear of letting this one take my hand. I walked beside him, bashful, embarrassed, and sobbing, to a guard shack in a little setting of trees near a gate. A single wooden step led up to the propped-open door. Inside, a second policeman sat on a tall stool in front of a small desk. Without leaving the stool, he handed my rescuer a sparkling plaque: a plaster of Paris carousel pony, undoubtedly from a booth on the midway. Then he leaned way out the door to smile and ask my name. But I still wasn't talking.
As the policeman beside me tried desperately to appease me with the glittering pony, I caught sight of my oldest sister striding quickly toward me with a big smile and an "I'm here for you" look in her eye. It turned out that everyone had been looking for me, and she was proud to be the one who found me. She accepted the pony from the policeman and handed it to me. As I clung to it, Mom and Dad and my other sister came barreling around the trees and the corner of the shack, smiles of relief on their faces.
Back home, Mom wrote Age 4 on the back of the carousel pony, and it lived in my sisters' and my bedroom for a long time. I'm not sure when it disappeared, but I always suspicioned that it was too much of a reminder of that day.
Fun and Games
a big wheel takes me
for a spin
on the midway
barkers on the prowl
for sitting ducks
house of mirrors
the overall view of myself
© 2014 Lois J. Funk
I've never forgotten how scared I was that day, and the picture of that plaster of Paris pony has always been vivid in my mind. It was plain white, probably 6' X 6", with mixed colors of blue, red and green glitter on the saddle, harness, bridle, etc., but not on the pony itself. So that's where I started "reconstructing" the memory. A few times, I'd start to write something that COULD have happened (and that might have made a better story for others to read), but then I'd think "No, that didn't happen," so I'd leave it out and stay with only the details of things that really DID happen. That way, it also becomes a part of my journal and of true memories.
Lois J. Funk is an internationally published poet and children’s author. Her new book,Snaps, Scraps & Snippets of the Past and Present (How to Retrieve the Lost Pictures of Your Past), is featured on Facebook, at "Writings by Lois J. Funk" and is available through firstname.lastname@example.org.