Bright lights flashing intermittently through the branches as the Ferris wheel makes another round.
The sounds of children shrieking with laughter.
The strange, yet familiar odorous mix of hot grease, powdered sugar, and barbecue.
Beneath my feet, the squish-squishing of straw spread across the wet ground, as I traverse the midway, I am transported right back into the world of my childhood -- a magical time in early summer, when, every year, without fail, our beloved Forest Park is transformed into a majestic, surreal, other world.
Like Atlantis arising from the ocean, or perhaps like the mythical city of Brigadoon, the carnival appears.
As a youngster, the draw was irresistible -- the carnival was exciting, romantic, and perhaps even a bit dangerous.
As the hot sun began to sink beneath the horizon, and the darkness came in like a stowaway with the cooling night breeze, I would meet up with my friends for an evening of unparalleled exhilaration fueled by too much cotton candy and excessive tilt-a-whirling.
Arm-in-arm, we circled the midway. We rode the Scrambler, the Octopus and the Mixer. We played every game. We scared ourselves and each other in the haunted house.
In those days, we were also drawn by curiosity to what I call "exhibits of the weird."
The one I remember most was the talking head of a woman seemingly attached to the body of an alligator -- a trick done with mirrors that, even as children, we knew could not be real -- yet, neither could we explain it. Adding to the aura of danger -- and, unfortunately, not based on a trick done with mirrors -- were the somewhat anxious admonitions of our parents to stick together and to call home frequently -- after all, who amongst us, raised in Brazil, Indiana, has not been told the oft-repeated story of Billy Martin -- the boy who vanished from Brazil during carnival time so many years ago -- a mystery that, to my knowledge, has never been solved.
The sound of brass instruments brings me back into the present, and I make my way through the trees to the band shell. As I listen to the patriotic selections and am moved by the homage to our veterans, I am struck and awed by the fact that the men and women playing here in the Brazil Concert Band are carrying forward a musical tradition that has existed in Clay County since pre-Civil War days.
The sociologist Emile Durkheim has told us that traditions and rituals are the very essence of community -- the bonds of connection between ourselves and others, between the present and the past, between the living and the dead.
My thoughts turn to tradition and the past more than usual today, since my 40-year Brazil High School reunion of the previous evening is still fresh in my mind ... perhaps it is my imagination, but it seems like there is something about the 40-year marker that made this reunion a little different from others.
Imagine walking into a room full of people that, at first, you are not sure that you even know -- a moment passes, then facial expressions begin to change -- eyelids open wide and smiles spread as recognition and memory set in.
"It's so glad to see you again!"
"I'm so glad you're here!"
An at-a-glance seemingly random collection of folks who have chosen differing pathways, who now live separated lives in distant and diverse cities, are once again reunited for a brief time, bound by the threads of memory and shared history.
On this particular evening, at least, all of the memories are good ones and all of the greetings are sincere. Time passes too quickly and as I leave the reunion, a feeling comes over me -- as a memory of times past, but not forgotten, the pull of some ancient thread -- the melting, perhaps, of something that had been long frozen.
What I feel is a sense of place, of roots, of belongings -- a feeling of connectedness that I had not experienced in a very long time.
Thank you, Brazil High School Class of 1971 Planning Committee, for making a wonderful reunion.
Thank you, Brazil Concert Band, for bringing us the joy of music, carried forth in tradition that unites us as a community.
And finally, thank you Brazil Rotary Club -- for bringing us, once again, the magic of carnival.
Glenna Hauser Simons,
Brazil High School Class of 1971