All the World Loves a Clown…

I’ve been thinking about my late mother a lot recently.  I think it’s because, as I get older, I see more and more of her in myself.  I did a blog post awhile back about the funny things we remember in our lives, and that absolutely holds true with my memories of Mom.  Most of them are just random things about her, like the slight “mm” before she said “hello” when answering the phone, or the goofy look she’d get on her face when she was swing dancing in the living room.  But my favorite memory is one that I can’t even retell without laughing out loud.

My oldest nephew was around six years old at the time.  His birthday is in late December, and the family was gathered for the Christmas holiday.  My mother called my nephew into the kitchen to give him his birthday gift.

Oh, how excited he was as he came running in!  A gift!  One just for him that wasn’t part of the holiday festivities!  Oh, how quickly excitement can turn into fear, and fear into sheer terror.

Mom called him over to her, and reached around and picked up the gift… a clown doll.  If one wasn’t already creeped out by clowns, this doll would have done the trick, with its big, red nose and dead, staring eyes and maniacal, blood-red grin.  She held it out to him, and his eyes grew wide as he slowly backed away, shaking his head.  Mom insisted it was adorable and kept waving it at him, and his little head shook faster and faster as he backed up against his own mother and found he could go no further.  Eyes huge, he stood his ground and tentatively reached out his tiny hand…

And then Mom pulled the string.  The string that made the clown laugh.

It was the laughter of every wake-up-screaming nightmare you’ve ever had, the cackle of a thousand mad scientists in a thousand old horror movies.  Vincent Price at the end of Thriller couldn’t touch this laugh.  It was the laugh of a dead-eyed clown that wanted to devour your soul.  My poor little nephew shrieked, turned, and practically climbed up and over his mother in his attempt to get away.  I suppose it didn’t help that the adults were all shrieking with laugher by that time, too.  I can only imagine it from my nephew’s viewpoint, all these bigger people cackling like insane hyenas as the Laughter of the Damned rang out above it all.

To this day, I have no idea whether Mom really thought that was an appropriate gift for a six year old, or if it was just her own brand of hilariously twisted humor.  I like to think it’s the latter, but that’s mainly so I have an excuse for my own warped mind.

So, thanks for the memory, Mom, and for every wonderful thing you did for all of us.  And thanks, especially, for saving that clown trick for the next generation instead of me.

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