Friday, September 20, 2019

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 straight hair, smooth dark skin, living in a land of Wonder Bread.  In my mind, she is surviving with her brothers and parents, moving from place to place, always starting over.  I see her catching the bus, eyes cast to the ground, hoping no one would notice 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 straight 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 as 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 begin making 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?





This is a post from May 2016. Carnivals are and were big events in every small rural town.  I can still smell the cotton candy, suck out the syrup from snow cones, and try to throw the ring.  We raced around, chasing each other, until our parents had had enough.

Usually when pulling out a re-post, I do rewrites, correcting verbs, etc.  Sometimes that means lots of re-writes. But in this post, I could not. We had just visited home and drove by this rusted yellow single wide trailer. The image of that one event is so invested in my memory with its images, sounds, odors.

Last time I drove by that dusty driveway, the trailer was gone, with only pieces of rusty twisted tin laying about. 

48 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story. Glad that despite so many narrow minds, she had her year of glory. Yes, I wonder what happened to her.

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    1. I wonder the same. What happened to her family, where did they go?

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  2. Why would you even think about wanting to change a word. It is perfect. And a wonderful story. I hope wherever she is, she is very happy and has a new confidence and feels that she will fit in.

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  3. Wearing that crown every day speaks volumes for what it meant to her. This is SUCH a poignant tale.

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    1. A moment of glory. I hope that moment will be enough to move on, finding and wearing other crowns.

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  4. It's such a good story I had to read it twice! It certainly doesn't need changing at all.

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  5. What a lovely story! The support of her family lifted her higher than she'd imagined, and I think that crown was a symbol of things to come. I bet she went on to live a successful life, and it all began with that carnival. Sometimes, we need someone else to believe in us for us to learn to believe in ourselves.

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    1. I didn't think about the crown that way, but you are absolutely right!

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  6. What a poignant and interesting story that leaves us guessing in the end. We all hope Theresa has found her rightful place in life (and society), which speaks to our need and desire for fulfillment.

    I was on my way out the door for the weekend, but had to stop and read this.

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  7. I loved every word! Yet, the unfinished loose ends are clamoring for attention. Life rarely presents nicely with pretty bows tied 'just so.' Still, I wonder if Theresa might be found. (But what would you say?)

    Exotic carnie's, indeed: Dangerous, but oh, so sexy. (heh-heh)

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    1. Oh, those carnies! Never even talked to one. they did seem to have that danger.

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  8. What a moving story. She was so proud of that crown. Now I want to know more about her life. Where did they go and what happen to Theresa. I do hope she found happiness.
    I enjoy this story, Susan. Your writing is excellent, you are a true storyteller.

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    1. This event and resulting story are as fresh as yesterday. thanks, Bill.

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    1. That is a quite a compliment coming from a writer such as yourself.

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  10. She sure deserved the crown. Wonder where she went when they vanished.

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  11. This is a wonderful story. I also think about past times and people that I knew. I hope that Theresa did OK.

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  12. I wonder if that's a good memory for her. Perhaps she moved someplace a little more cosmopolitan.

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    1. I sure hope so. Midwest "white bread" world is unkind.

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  13. WOW. I did enjoy this one. Sweet and sad. You dfid a great job. and YES just wondering how many Theresas there re who do not get the crown. I do love the story!
    THANKS,
    Sherry & jack

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  14. I love this story. I too wonder about some of the girls who left my little post war neighborhood.

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  15. My hope is she grew into that crown and it changed her life.

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    1. That is a beautiful line: that she grew into that crown.

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  16. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that single event changed her life?! Beautiful thought!

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  17. A life changing moment. Everyone deserves that moment in their lives.

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  18. I'm sad that anyone at anytime should feel the need to hide behind a curtain of hair. I'm gad she won that crown and was able to lift her head and smile. I'm sure it boosted her confidence.

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  19. I felt Theresa's pain in every sentence. Some of us have experienced shame similar to that- because we were dressed wrong, or overweight, orfarmer kids in a city school.
    God bless Theresa. I hope she moved on to a happy life and was able to leave the stigma attached to her family behind her. How wonderful that for one glowing moment in time she was Queen!
    Great story- Hugs- Diana

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  20. Amazing how much 'ancient ruins' hold our emotions.

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    1. They trigger and open up that place from where our memories like.

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  21. Sweet story. I've seen a lot of Theresas over the year, just waiting to be noticed, then it's time to move on.

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  22. What a sweet thing her brothers did.

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    1. They depended so much on her as the oldest, and they took care of her.

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