Extracts from

How to Juggle

By Marian Murray

Children of the Big Top, Chapter 10

Marian Murray's book "Children of the Big Top" contains a chapter entitled "How to Juggle". In this chapter young Marcello Truzzi, Massimiliano's son, spends a rainy afternoon teaching a friend called Ed to juggle. While Ed is practicing, he asks Marcello about his family...

"How did your father learn? Did he teach himself?" he asked as he lay on his stomach and reached under a chair and into the corner.

"Well, in a way. He learned by watching the greatest juggler who ever lived.

"My father and mother came from Russia, you know. Of course, my father's family is Italian, and we have been in the circus business for ages. My great-grandfather, who was also named Massimiliano, went to Russia almost a hundred years ago, and pretty soon he had circuses all over the place. Performances were given in buildings made just for that purpose, and Circus Truzzi used to move around thousands of miles, from one of the buildings to another. It got so big that when it traveled by train it had to go in two parts. Sometimes it went to other countries, too."

Ed nodded his head to show he had heard. He kept struggling with the balls while Marcello was talking. He could hear, but he couldn't talk very well because his tongue was between his teeth.

"Well, anyhow," Marcello went on, "we were pretty important, if I do say so. Then when the Russian Revolution came along everybody in the family had to skip to Constantinople. They went on to Italy, and stayed there until 1925. Then they went back to Russia, but they didn't own circus buildings any more; they were just performers. Naturally, my father was the featured juggler, and everybody was crazy about him. He stayed until 1932, and then he and my mother came to this country for Ringling. She used to help in the ring. I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, when they were there on tour.

"You know my mother is Russian. In our house you never know whether you're going to be speaking Russian or English. And of course they can go into German, Italian of French, if there are visiting foreigners."

"I'll say!" Ed agreed, while he chased a ball across the room. "It sounds sometimes like the tower of Babel in the Bible. Who was the man your father watched?"

"His name was Rastelli," Marcello told him, "and people simply worshipped him. He worked in our circus in Russia when my father was a boy. My grandfather was a rider, but my father didn't want to ride or do any of the violent acrobatic stunts, so he decided he'd learn to juggle, and he borrowed Rastelli's props to practice with.

"He has never really wanted me to be a circus performer of any kind, but he wanted me to learn to juggle so I'd always have it. And to tell you the truth, I'm pretty proud to be able to carry on the tradition of the great Rastelli."

Marcello goes on to explain some more advanced juggling tricks to Ed, and the chapter finishes like this.

"My father thinks that juggling is an art," said Marcello. "So do my European cousins who are jugglers. That's the way they feel about it in Europe. In this country we're likely to look at all these things as little tricks, even though people spend their whole lives learning them."

Ed looked out the window.

"For Pete's sake!" he cried. "It has stopped raining! If I'm going to be an artist, I'd better get at it. Let's go up to the Five and Dime and see if I can get some balls to start with."

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