Monday, May 16, 2016

Queen of the Carnival

Abandoned Trailer Home. Tulare County, California. DSMc.2012:
On Pinterest.com

Today I am thinking of Theresa.  

I see her with her dark curly hair, smooth dark skin, living in a land of Wonder Bread.  See her surviving with her brothers and parents, moving from place to place, always starting over.  See her catching the bus, eyes cast to the ground, hoping no one noticed her.

I can see her yet, a small teenage girl, shivering with anxiety.  A dark skin among a sea of all white, Theresa was drowning.

It was strange then and even now to me.  

On Friday near the end of May, our Yellow bus had bumped down a dust and gravel road, everyday passing a weedy patch, hiding a rusted and faded single wide mobile home. With weeds almost engulfing it, this tin can of a home for years had been empty, with overhead wires feeding it power, and buckets to carry for water.

Then, on Monday there parked by the battered trailer was an equally rusty station wagon.  

On this Monday, Theresa stood waiting where gravel met weeds.  She ducked in quickly, and scooted over in the seat behind bus driver.  She shrank down into her shell, dark curly hair shading, covering her face.

Days careened into each other, until Yellow bus stopped to release Theresa on the last day of school.  And that seemed to be it, no more stops and hiding behind her hair.

Carnival!  Yearly Carnival weekend arrived for its annual weekend of wonder and excitement! Lights and games and rides--glamour and side glances at the exotic carnies!  

In the middle of rides and games stood a booth for choosing "Queen of Carnival".  A photo of each candidate hovered over a gallon glass jar, where one could drop some coins.  The winner would be the one with the most coins, meaning not just pennies, but some silver as well.

I looked at each familiar face, lovely young women all of them.  Donna?  Betty?  Maryanne? ...and then there was a photo of Theresa over an almost empty jar. Theresa?  Is that you?  

Theresa and her family walked around the Wonder Bread street.  Whispers followed them--India?  My dad was in India during the War... Dark skin and oiled coal black hair, deep brown eyes were proud, defying, almost angry.

The sun set on a last night when a queen would be chosen and crowned, culmination of all the lights. 

In the moments before the jars were to be collected, Theresa's brothers carried bags of coins to pour into an almost empty jar sitting beneath the photo of Theresa's smiling face.  Handfuls of coins rained into the jar, over and over, until overflowing. 

Judges walked around and looked at each photo, at each jar.  Stopping at Theresa's coin filled jar, each nodded.  One took her photo and walked up steps of park's bandstand.  Standing at the foot of the steps were Theresa's family,dark eyes reflecting bright lights only a carnival could have.

When her name was announced, Theresa stood tall, a queen in Wonder Bread land, walking up steps.  A crown was placed on her dark hair while Theresa cast a brilliant smile across the town.  Her father stood proudly, tears down his face. His daughter.  His girl was queen. 

For the entire summer, whenever Theresa and her family ventured into town to shop, she always wore her crown.  Every single time that homemade crown-- made of cardboard covered with heavy duty aluminum foil, caked with glitter and shiny sequins--perched upon her dark hair, now pulled back away from her glowing face.

When it was time for Yellow bus to make its its daily journey, the car was gone, leaving the trailer, new weeds growing.

Queen Theresa moved somewhere, taking a glow of one night when she was crowned.

Where did she go? Does she still wear the crown?

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20 comments:

  1. At least she had her fifteen minutes of fame.

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes just 15 minutes can last a lifetime.

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  2. I love that it's the happy moment that sticks out for the reader in the story. Sounds like the family was due.

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    1. Well over-due. Hope that moment gave the family find their way.

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  3. What a beautiful story. Well done!

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  4. Sometimes all it takes is something little to make a big difference.

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    Replies
    1. Something, no matter how insignificant it seemed to us, changed her family, and us.

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  5. Loved it! Tears came to my eyes. She may have had little, but she had a loving family and there is nothing better than that.

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    1. That night had an impact on the town. Theresa changed that night.

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  6. Beautiful.
    I suspect that her family didn't have coins to 'throw away' and LOVE the use they made of them to celebrate their pride and joy.

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    1. They were so poor and supported by the state. They must have searched every nook and cranny to find enough money. It was a joy to see.

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  7. Glad she got hers. If only for a summer.

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    Replies
    1. A positive event in her dismal life--she was more than overdue.

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  8. I'm glad Theresa got to be queen for a day, that feeling will never leave her.
    It's a sad kind of wondering, isn't it? When people move in, stay for a while, then move on, forever moving. and we are left wondering where did they come from? Where did they go? Are they alright?

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    1. It happens too often, esp. to a poor family, looking for a place where they can live.

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  9. A moving account, so very well-written. My compliments and admiration..

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    1. Thank you, Geo. This event plays out in my mind frequently.

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