Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Are you a clown?

Due to an abundance of curiosity, children have no problem staring at someone. When I am painting a child's face, I literally have them in the palm of my hand … their face, that is. So, we are truly face to face. Inches apart sometimes. What else have they to look at but me? When I see them staring, probably noticing the glitter I brushed through my eyebrows or that weird spot in my eye, I just smile, which usually makes them do the same.

Admittedly, Miss Pickles is a novelty. Clad in every color of the rainbow and then some, not to mention the plethora of patterns, I (as her) am certainly stare-worthy. From the trio of items in my retro wig (or is that my real hair?!) to the bows, buttons and glittery laces on my two-tone sneakers, they have something to study on me from head to toe. And they do.

As they survey me, their little minds churning away with imagination-infused thoughts and bizarre connections most adults could never imagine, the question they ask most is, “Are you a clown?” I was initially surprised they would have any doubt, but they ask me so regularly, it made me start to wonder. I never do answer their question. I simply toss it back to them, saying, “What do you think?” Some say yes, others don't verbalize their conclusion. One boy said, “You're an upgraded clown.” I like that one!

Guess it all depends on what each person views as a “clown.” From so many, the mere word conjures up fearful images, and I have no desire to encourage association with any of those negative personas. Even the happy, jolly ones can be kind of scary, so I let children believe I am a new species of children's character, clown-esque in nature, but perhaps evolved to the place where fear is not a factor.

I love seeing how children's minds work, how their thoughts direct how they conduct themselves with different people. For some kids, there is no getting-to-know-you period with Miss Pickles. They know me immediately! Or, at least, they act like they do. I call this type of child “the sassafras.” They are sassy, funny, bursting with personality. They can be a bit rambunctious, but they are wildly entertaining, often very helpful, and keep me laughing.

The sassafras rarely asks if I'm a clown. It's not that they don't care; they just wouldn't give others the satisfaction of knowing they don't have a clue about it. And if another child asks me the question, they might respond before I can. The sassafras knows all, or so they think. “Clown” label or not for Miss Pickles, one thing the sassafras knows for certain--they know I'm there for them and that's all that matters.