Side Show Freaks
He did his best to protect me from the wrath of my mother, but he was also a target of her insanity. We were silent but knowing cohorts in our struggle to avoid Mary’s wrath and contempt, for who knows what would set her off. Mary was a walking time bomb, all the while paving land mines in front of your steps. One false move or look would bring about a physical and verbal explosion on whatever target she aimed for. Her aim was perfect. The target was usually me.
Big Frank and I never did the “normal” things fathers and daughters did. We were different. I don’t really know what other fathers and daughters did, but I knew it wasn’t the same. Big Frank taught me to parallel park when I was 10. He worked in a parking lot and showed me the tricks of the trade. To this day I can parallel park with the best of them.
He taught me how to play poker at the age of 7. He tried to teach me the art of “bluffing” but would just laugh out loud when I giggled as I tried to bluff at every hand I got.
Because he had no teeth, he would show me how his tongue could touch the top of his nose and call it magic. I loved sitting on his lap and watching him perform this trick.
Having only gone to 4th grade, his reading skills were almost non existent. So I would read him comic books and the newspaper funnies. A lot of time was spent laughing with Big Frank.
Big Frank was the first person to introduce me to the outdoor traveling circus, complete with the ever mesmerizing freak show. Big Frank knew all the secret spots around New Haven where these side shows were held. The headed 2 woman, whose second head really was a mannequin head with make up, lipstick and a face painted on to look like a real lady. They could have used my mother. She certainly seemed 2 headed all the time-one nice head for my brother Frankie and one mean head for me.
The bearded woman really had a beard, but then again so did Big Frank’s older sister Margaret, or at least hairs coming out of her chin.
The midgets in the circus were nothing new to me. They would stand on the stage parading about with their normal size husband or wife, and normal size children extolling the amazing differences in their physical appearance, yet still being able to produce“normal kids.” Nothing new to me. My friend at the White Tower Restaurant, King Kong was always with tall good looking women.
The tattooed woman was no surprise. My friend Martha on Henry Street had tattoos all over and she was a wrestler to boot.
Betty-Billy was an interesting act. Betty-Billy claimed to be half woman, half man. Once again, the half woman part had a beard and HUGE muscles and the half man part had HUGE breasts, or so it seemed. My friend Timmy the Drag Queen and Helen the Lesbian could have worked this show, along with Johnny who wore his mother’s dresses and stuck oranges down his dress for breasts.
None of these acts scared or confused me. I found safety and solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one who lived in a circus environment.
Sad thing is that these “freaks” as they were labeled seemed happier than I was.
What was wrong with “my circus”?