Inside, the signs were everywhere stating not to touch the walls.
I stood at the East end inside of the structure, and while others read the bronze plaques arranged along that wall, I centered myself, crouched down, dropping to one knee and touched the floor-- pretending to be reading a plaque set at ankle height.
I then stood, facing that wall, and looked up.
I wondered who else had stood exactly there and dropped to one knee, and then raised his eyes skyward. I wished... well, I wish for a lot of things that do not seem possible.
Amazing things took place inside that building, and all the bronze plaques tell of some. I love the story-- it is part of my culture. Yet, the most amazing things that ever happened there, took place right where I dropped to touch the floor-- just a few feet from the East wall. The other story, the one without the plaques, is one of Blood poured out for many. I remember the one, but participate in the other.
If a building could scream, she screamed in 1793. I understand.
There is back story, also a mystery: That holy place was my first stop on a special spiritual pilgrimage I began this morning. I was searching for something-- an answer.
I was not yet five years old and we lived in Fort Worth. The memory is vivid.
I woke from a sound sleep in the back of the car. I had no recollection of being put in the car. They must have carried me from my bed in the wee hours of the morning and headed out.
It was in whatever car the family drove before the blue Galaxy 500, and before Dad bought the 1964-and-a-half Ford Mustang. My mother and father were there, but my big brother was not. They hurriedly unloaded the car, and me, into a motel room in downtown San Antonio. 'Might has well had been a piece of baggage. Something was wrong and the adults were not telling. My mother crawled in bed, as my dad ran a quick errand.
He returned with some food and drink, crackers for me, if I recall, and a small plastic bag of silver and gold plastic medieval knights. Period army men. The motel room carpet was blue and green checkers of about one inch squares. Mom slept, and I played with the army men without much interest. I did not know why we were there, why Dad was leaving, why Mom was not talking and then sleeping. She took a long bath at some point.
I remember being terribly afraid that my Father was leaving and he seemed afraid for me. His fear did not add to my own, but instead, I loved the empathy. As long as he knew, I need not struggle about it.
I remember being alone as mother slept in the bed and having those two dozen or so silver and gold plastic men, not knowing anything about medieval knights, and not knowing what to do with them. I paired them by their kind. Gold and silver knights with a sword slashing in this pile, Gold and silver knights with bows in that pile. I worried that I would be bored-- and being bored is the most intolerable situation for me. I could not read yet, there was no TV, and my brother was, inexplicably, absent. I had twenty four or so plastic men, and the options seemed quite limited. I was worried.
Eventually, mother was up, dressed, and ready to go. We left the motel room-- it had to have been a motel because the door opened to the outside, but not to a parking lot. Mom was stressed. I just knew-- but I did not know why she was stressed.
We crossed a street. And the sun was very, very bright. It beat down on us with tremendous heat. There were large display windows along that block where we had crossed, in one or two of them, beautiful scale replicas of circus wagons. I thought they were trains. I thought they were trains for two reasons. First, I had never seen or heard of a circus wagon. Second, small model displays in downtown window displays, for me, had always been of one of the two major categories: Train set displays, and everything else. That second category was the mundane kind and included mannequins wearing clothing, scarfs, purses, suits, shoes, watches and so on. Only the first category had any value.
My nose to the glass as I marveled at the details of the models had mother's interest. She pointed out that, rather than trains they were circus wagons, and told me that I did know about circus wagons, because that was what the box of Animal Crackers were supposed to look like. I never realized that, and remember studying a box when we returned to Fort Worth. She was right.
She stepped inside a recessed entry door and we went inside a dark little room with a glass case to the right and a hall way off to the left rear of that little room. I had been to toy stores, and glass counters is where they had model trains. This one did not have model trains in it. The bald man sitting behind the counter was friendly toward my Mom but not to me. I imagine she got a lot of that -- but that is an adult thinking, not a four year old.
I was expecting a toy store, but instead was at a counter where the man was explaining admission and times. Mother was saying something about "Maybe next time." I was not interested in a tour of anything. I liked the zoo but did not like the circus. I liked animals, but I did not like animals doing tricks-- and I HATED clowns. I fully understand, at some deep intuitive level, the toy blow-up clown that's only purpose was to be punched. Anyway, a toy store would have been alright, but I wanted my Dad.
We went to a building which had crash-bar doors and went through one. Mom and I were in the back of the largest room I had ever seen except for in a Church. It was filled with men in suits all facing a stage with a podium. My Dad was speaking there. Mom found us two seats at the back and we sat down there. I have no idea what my Dad had said, but the men were laughing, and clapping. My father was enjoying himself, and all those business men were enjoying him. He finished and I filed-away that there was a whole side of my Dad I did not know about-- he was known by a lot of people and spoke in front of hundreds of complete strangers (to me) and they liked it when he did. It was one of those "the world just got a lot bigger" moments for a child.
Dad came straight from the podium and joined Mom and me, and Mom was happy, Dad was happy, and I was relieved. We left immediately.
The memory, as I just recounted it, kept coming back in such vivid detail that I believe my mind wanted me to examine it more carefully-- my own self showing me something and demanding that I apply my adult mind and experiences to that childhood memory-- because there was something important that my child-self missed.
Using Google searches and Google Earth, I discovered that we had been at the Hertzberg Circus Museum, and that my father had almost certainly been speaking at the Villita Assembly Building. Fine. Details now supplied, now what?
I have mulled it all over, and come up with little of use.
This morning, I drove to San Antonio, stopped by the Alamo, and then walked to where the Hertzberg Circus Museum had been-- hoping for something which would make sense-- a jogged memory, a new piece of the puzzle to work with, sudden inspiration simply by being in the place? Nothing. I walked for over two hours. Nothing. But I did my spiritual duty: I pursued meaning and understanding.
Maybe it will still come.