Monday, November 2, 2015
Clowns, Crowns, and Pink Jeeps
On April 1, 1987, my family (my former husband, Tom, my son, Dean, and I) played an April Fools Day joke on the world by departing on what would grow to a three-and-a-half-month road trip through thirty-eight states and two Canadian provinces. Among other momentous events, Dean would turn three-years-old during the trip, as we wound around the country in a giant terrestrial loop in our cute little motorhome named Barney (which predates the purple TV Barney, so no relation).
One of the first stops we made after leaving the safety of California was in Sedona, Arizona, half sleepy little artists enclave, half resort spa. (I understand that Sedona has changed drastically over the decades, but back then, it was a sweet little place that reminded us of Ojai or La Jolla before their own tourist invasions.) We camped among red rocks and evergreen trees along a little creek that had carved a path through the red sandstone, and bundled ourselves against the cold to explore trails headed into rocky wilderness.
A highlight of our stay in Sedona, was our Pink Jeep Adventure, a wild ride in the back of a brightly painted Jeep that carried us bouncing and sliding and whooping and laughing for several hours out into remote canyons and creek beds. Dean, at two-and-a-half, was wildly excited and could not stop smiling. I do not know if he still remembers that adventure first hand, or just remembers the event from its hundreds of re-tellings and scrapbook viewings.
Wandering through the artsy stores in town post-adventure, Dean picked out a gift for me. He labeled it an early Mother’s Day gift, but I was allowed to open it in April, more than a month early. He chose a music box decorated with a picture of a little boy dressed as a happy clown. The box plays “Send in the Clowns” when its lid is raised. Dean was so excited to find the box, so excited to be able to select it just for Mom, and giddy when later, back at the motorhome, he watched me unwrap it from its brown paper bag and exclaim over it.
The music box, a favorite piece of my clutter collection, sits today on my dresser next to a photo of Dean I took just before we departed on our "grand tour" in 1987. He loved to play dress up, and that day he was wearing a golden crown and looks so much like the little clown on the box, giant blue eyes, serious expression of confidence, sincere happiness. Dean is now thirty-something and probably has few occasions to wear a crown or otherwise dress up (except at Hallowe’en), and I hope he doesn't mind a bit of nostalgia posted here.