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Circa 1949 in faraway South Africa a little girl was so excited she almost couldn’t breathe.

She’d never been to a circus, but she knew all about it. She’d seen pictures. And for Christmas she got a cut-out book with paper dolls and costumes.

There were beautiful ladies riding beautiful horses.

Trapeze artists. Walking high wires. Tumblers. Jugglers. Lions and tigers and elephants. Dogs and monkeys.  And –


What she couldn’t cut out and dress up, she could color.

Oh yes, she knew all about the circus. So, when the great day came, her mom dressed her in her very best. It was a Saturday.

Off they went. Her dad, her mom and her brother as well.


Her family were farmers. It had been a long and severe period of drought so when the heavens opened, as it should because everyone had been praying for rain, it made the day extra special.

“Swish-swish,” the windscreen wipers went. She bounced up and down in time with the swishing until her mother told her to sit still.

It was a thirty-mile trip on dirt roads. She sat on her hands, willing her dad to drive faster. Then he stopped.

Were they there? She peeped through a rain-streaked window. She couldn’t see any lights or hear any music.

“Trooi,” her dad said to her mom. “What does that sign over there say?”

“Flood waters,” her mom said. “Drift closed.”

She knew what a drift was. When these small streams crossed a road, a concrete slab was laid across the stream, so cars could cross. If the drift was deep enough, huge pipes were placed below the concrete slabs, so the water could flow through.

She stretched to see over her dad’s shoulder. Peeked between the swishing blades. All she could see was water.

Where was the road?

“It’s too dangerous,” her dad said. “I can’t drive into this.”

Her mom was quiet which she knew was a bad sign. Her mom was never quiet.

“Could we try?” her mom asked.

Her dad shook his head. “Too deep. The car will be swept away.”

She made herself small in the back seat.

“I’m sorry,” her mom said in her “special” voice. The one mom used when she’d fallen or hurt herself.

“We have to turn around. We’re going home. Next time.”

She didn’t want a next time. She wanted a NOW.

When they got home, she packed away her cut-out coloring book. And all the dolls and their clothes.

She didn’t ask to see the circus the next year. Just in case it started raining again.

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