There had been one restless night when in her agitated twisting of the dial Marga had found the voice of Sir Winston Churchill, a recording of a wartime broadcast, and lying back she’d listened to his deep rolling song. “We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” It sounded biblical to her, like something a prophet would say. Isaiah. And with his name she inadvertently summoned a memory of her father keeping vigil by the wireless until he could find a BBC broadcast. “We will be saved,” her father had told her. But he was wrong.
My father sent us down to the corner to buy cigarettes, and when we came back, my mother was crying again. A new record was playing, the Barry Sisters, and my father tapped his foot to the Yiddish swing and murmured along with the song, “Abi Gezunt” (“If You’ve Got Your Health”). Karen had bought my mother a single yellow rose, her favorite flower, swaddled in a paper cone with a fern leaf and a bit of baby’s breath. My mother thanked us sadly. She did not currently remember that she had hated her mother.
From a distance, Les Colporteurs’ circus tent is a far pavilion, a striped confection of white and caramel. Inside the rigging is sparse, some wires, platforms and trapeze. All the way at the top of the tent, where it narrows considerably, is a cat’s cradle of rope. Brought in during the course of different movements, tree limbs serve as ladders and tightropes and conduits for water and balls to be juggled. By the end of the show the stage, initially bare, is forested with them.