For over 20 years, my family gathered every 4th of July for a croquet tournament. The exact number of years is unknown, but I have photos going back to my grade school days. My family lived tucked at the end of a coulee in southwestern Wisconsin, with my aunt and uncle living up the coulee, and another aunt, uncle, and cousins across the street. My uncle’s side of the family were also nearby so on the 4th, rain or shine, we gathered to play croquet. The winning team took home a “trophy” – an odd, metallic art sculpture. And in addition to potluck, my uncle would roast an entire pig in an enormous pit.
Over the years, the event grew as families grew and neighbors in the coulee began to attend. The tournament included prizes – a table of “treasures” from my aunt’s house that she wanted to part with. There were always all sorts of items – jewelry, pottery, small tools, CDs, artwork, odds and ends. The winners got to pick first and then on down the line in the tournament ranking.
One year, when Quentin was a toddler, I saw a pink stuffed clown on the prize table. I took it. Ger and I had planned for a third child and something about that clown made me think “just in case it’s a girl – I want that pink clown.” I tucked it away when I got home, in a drawer in the basement, and basically forgot about it except maybe once a year when I would go into that drawer to retrieve extra place mats stored there.
In 2015 when we played croquet, I was pregnant with Nelle. I remembered the clown for a fleeting minute, but even when I began to set up her room, I didn’t unpack it.
I forgot about the clown after losing Nelle. And after losing Iris. And after becoming pregnant with Autumn.
It was probably just as well. The clown was a reminder of the daughter that I wanted so much, and throughout all that time I wasn’t sure it would happen for me.
I found the clown only very recently, when I went into the basement to (once again) retrieve the spare place mats stored there. I pulled the clown out of the drawer and brought it up to Autumn’s room.
The croquet tournament has ended. My aunt and uncle announced that 2017 was going to be the last year they would host. I was pregnant with Autumn, so she never got to experience the tournament (at least not outside of the womb). We may have new hosts in the future, but that particular magical gathering on my aunt and uncle’s green space by their barn is no more.
Yet the tournament carries on in the prize I chose several years ago, when a third baby was just a glint in my eye and the clown that I saved for the daughter I now have.
And tomorrow, we are having some friends over for a small croquet tournament in our backyard.