lady-frootloopOnce upon a time there was a ten year old girl named Sarah. She had hair the color of oats on a sunny day and eyes that lit up like sparklers when she got excited. Which was quite often, because almost everything excited Sarah.

She had a brown pony named Seraph whom she loved to ride and care for. Everyday she cuddled and played with her brown and white cat, Lippy, and her black dog, Jessie.  She read stories and colored pictures, danced to music in her living room, walked in the bush, and played with friends.

Sarah loved to create unique things to do with her friends. Once she put a bucket of water on the lawn and filled it with apples. Everyone in turn dunked their face in the bucket and bobbed in the water trying to bite the apple and bring it out of the bucket.  Naturally, faces and hair and T-shirts got very wet indeed. Now, that may not sound particularly unusual, but the next part was what made it so funny. The apple was next hidden deep in a big bowl of flour, and everyone had to plunge their face into the bowl of flour and rummage around trying try to bite the apple and retrieve it. What faces! What messes!

Another time Sarah made a big sponge cake with many layers of jam and cream and an especially thick layer on top. Then she and her Mum and friends cut it into big pieces, put them on plates, and ate them without using their hands. More fun and more messes!

One day Sarah decided that she wanted to be a clown. She told her mother, “I think if we could be clowns it would make some of the sad things that have happened lately feel better.” Sarah and her Mum both rented clown costumes at a local shop. Sarah wore an orange and blue outfit with a curly lavender wig. Mum was in blue and red with big white polkadots and wore a curly yellow wig. Oh, did they laugh, painting their faces in many colors and designs and dancing around the living room with Jessie and Libby.

Soon after that, Sarah’s Auntie Rosie came to visit from the city. It happened that Rosie had also always wanted to be a clown, and she brought a clown costume with her. It was a curly red wig with a black cap on top, multi-colored shorts in a cat pattern, red suspenders over a black t-shirt, and shoes that were black, red and white. Rosie, Mum, and Sarah played and sang and danced and painted their faces. And Sarah’s eyes shown like sparklers and her face glowed as if it were Christmas morning.

Sarah said, “I wish I could go to school and be a clown for my class.”

Mum and Rosie clapped their hands and exclaimed, “Oh, what fun. We could all three go and be clowns.”

Sarah’s Mum phoned the school principle and he said it would be OK. The next day, Mum and Rosie drove into the school parking lot dressed as clowns. Sarah bounded out of the building and changed into her clown outfit in the car. Soon their lavender, yellow and red heads could be seen bobbing across the playground toward the school building.

They walked into the classroom and all the kids stared in silence. The clowns tossed some balloons into the room and suddenly everyone erupted into laughs and giggles and jabbering. The clowns blew up many balloons and bounced them to the kids. They danced little jigs. They shook hands with the boys and girls. They let them try on some of the funny clown spectacles they carried in their pockets.

The noise got louder and the kids scrambled all around the room.  Most of them were laughing and playful but a few of them were mean. They poked at the clowns. They pricked the balloons which collapsed with loud bangs. They pulled at the clowns’ wigs and snapped at their shoe laces.

When it was time to leave, the clowns walked back to the parking lot surrounded by a wave of curious boys and girls. These were the ones who’s eyes sparkled like Sarah’s and whose laughter was gay and friendly. They kept shaking hands with and waving to the clowns right up to the moment they drove away in their car.

The clowns drove to a deli and ate lunch. They didn’t know what to think. Neither they nor the teacher had expected such aggressive behavior. Even though most of the boys and girls had been happy and playful, it was the rudeness of the few that the clowns kept remembering. Mum and Rosie said it had really gone well, even with the few rowdy kids. But Sarah didn’t say much. She pretended to smile and she laughed too loud. That night she went to bed and cried.

She didn’t know that:

Johnny went home that day and told his Mum that he thought Sarah must have more fun than any kid in school,

Or that Sally went home and dressed up in her Mum’s fancy dresses and hats and painted her face and smiled and laughed,

Or that Betty asked her mum to make her a clown outfit like Sarah’s,

Or that Jimmy asked his mum why she never played with him the way Sarah’s mum played with her.

Or that Jennifer whispered to her neighbor on the bus, “Sarah is the bravest girl I know. She’s not afraid to do anything.”

Or that Sam overheard the teacher telling the principle, “That Sarah is so imaginative. She will go far.”

Sarah told me all about this twenty years later. For, in the course of time, many of the boys and girls revealed how they’d gone home and thought about her that night.

When Sarah told me the story, she was sitting with her two children, both dressed in clown costumes, and she had by then become one Australia’s most admired actresses.