Send in the Clowns… The End of an Era

Ladies and Gentleman, children of all ages…’ll never believe what awaits you….

It’s my very first guest blogger! My husband, Grouchy Dave Helfand is best known for his practical approach to life. He is not one to be sentimental (ever), so when he told me he wanted to write a guest blog, I was surprised, delighted, and a bit skeptical. Dave doesn’t believe in punctuation or paragraphing, nor do I think of him as ‘Financial Advisor by Day, Creative Blogger by Night.’ I was pleasantly surprised and touched by his writing. Beneath his gruff exterior and gray business suit is the little boy who still loves being a kid. So without further ado, please welcome Dave’s debut post……

I am not a quitter, but sometimes you need to roll with life. I got my first job right out of college and have stayed for over 21 years. I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for 17 years. However, I do realize that sometimes things change. As the Thanksgiving holiday ended, one big part of my life ended with it. I did not go to the circus. Every year at this time, Ringling Brothers takes over the United Center and Allstate Arena (or for us Chicagoans, the Rosemont Horizon) and for 3 glorious weeks, the circus comes to town. I have been taking my kids for the last ten years through good times and bad. Regardless of what was going on in my life, the circus memories for me were always good.

Yes, there was the time that my son drove my sister-in-law crazy by screaming the whole way downtown. This occurred the year Lisa was sick in the hospital. I tuned out the toddler tantrums and thought the circus was great. However, my sister-in-law never went again.

Fortunately, the following year Lisa was healthy enough to go and bring our 20-month-old daughter along with our 4-year-old. Emi had to go to the bathroom at intermission. Lisa does not know the United Center bathroom tricks and got stuck in a long line. Emi apparently threw a major tantrum, rolled around on the filthy bathroom floor and wound up with a rash. No matter, I still had a great time at the circus!

Some years the strength was in the lions or elephants. The dancing dogs always got me laughing. Of course, the chance to win a painting hand crafted by an elephant was very exciting. However, my all-time favorite was the motorcycles flying around inside a ball of death. This was definitely a highlight. The kids and I would rate the performances and analyze our circus experience on the ride home. The only one a bit skeptical of the circus was Lisa. She always got nervous when performers did tricks of amazement and worried about potential injuries. Lisa’s a team player and would come year after year even though she wasn’t a fan of the circus.

When the circus came to town last year, people started dropping out. After nine years, my son and Lisa said they were done going to the circus. I asked, “Who will rate the performances with me and yell, ‘Ladies and gentleman and children of all ages welcome to the greatest show on earth’?”

Our son dressed as a clown.

They said, “Not us. “

Luckily for me there was always my beautiful and easy-going daughter Emi who’s always up for a good time. So in year 10 it was just the two of us. We, of course, had a great time. Some of the best news was that Emily did not need me to accompany her to the bathroom and to her credit, she no longer rolled around on the floor. As usual, year ten was a solid show- a big upgrade in the trapeze performance.

Year 11 was coming up so a few weeks ago, I asked Emi if she wanted to join me for our annual circus trip. Coincidentally, this year will be the last circus at the United Center since the Bulls and Hawks did not renew the circus lease. I fully expected Emi to say she was excited to go, but instead, she said “I don’t really want to go Daddy, do you want to go?”

Well, of course I wanted to go, but sometimes you need to roll with it. I did not want my daughter to get dragged somewhere that she had no interest in going. While I was not emotional at the time, the Sunday after Thanksgiving rolled around and something felt off. Not understanding the significance of the day, Lisa actually suggested we take the kids into the city and do something fun. I replied, “Well, we usually go to the city for the circus on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.” Lisa responded with a hearty Humph.

If you think the story takes a glorious turn here and everyone suddenly wanted to go to the circus, you are mistaken. Black Friday apparently extends all the way to Sunday, so  I spent this past Sunday at the mall holding Lisa and Emi’s coats as they shopped. Our teenage son hung out with a few friends in our basement, only emerging for food and drink. The circus is now just a memory. My kids are growing up. We still have fun and do things as a family, but the thrill of the circus and the greatest show on earth is probably over for me until I have grandkids. Lisa’s friends do have young children, so there is a chance they may want to go with me, being that it is the greatest show on earth, but most likely, I’ll have a long circus hiatus. I will always remember going with my children and feeling like a kid again, if only for a few hours each year.



  1. Bravo! It’s great to hear from Dave. I vote for more where this came from. I thinks dads writing about fatherhood is so valuable and this story is very symbolic both of the kids’ growth and of the growth parents experience, willingly or reluctantly. Time marches on so cherish the memories.


  2. Great job Dave!! Loved your blog… And even though Mike and I do not have kids, the moral of the story still rings true for me… Enjoy life and all the little things, for someday they will no longer be there.


  3. Brought a tear to my eye….message definitely hits home. Must admit though, we dragged our kids to the greatest show on earth last week. Albeit, maybe reluctantly, but we all ooo’d and ahhh’d a bit. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Just one of many milestones you have had or will have. This one just affected you more. If I knew you wanted to go to the circus, I would have taken you. But I get it, you wanted to take your kids. It would work for me, but not for you.


  5. You are not alone, Dave. This was a great post. I grew up in Chicago, and the circus was a family tradition every November (conveniently timed around my birthday). My kids are still young enough to enjoy the circus, but going in April doesn’t quite feel the same as those November outings in Chicago. All the best to you and your family. May you find some new traditions to cherish as your kids outgrow the old ones.


  6. Great Blogging Dave, Quite impressed by the writing… Loved to read a man’s perspective on spending the day doing what YOU love to do and having the kids take part in your joy. Kudos…They grow up fast. I’m sure new traditions will emerge.
    It’s a fun thing to do with your grandkids…Something to look forward to.


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