For a large chunk of my childhood, that phrase was quite literal. I wanted the brass ring more than I wanted anything else. If I was tall enough and clever enough to get the brass ring, then I was big enough. Big enough to what, I’m not entirely sure. What the hell am I talking about? A carousel. Specifically the Looff Carousel in Spokane, Washington. It’s one of the few carousels left where you can still reach for the brass ring, quite literally.
Every time I went to the park, I’d ride the carousel, mostly on the same horse, and try and stand as tall as I could, reach as far as I could to grab the rings that came down the metal arm. I didn’t want the plastic rings, but I would have been happy with those (sort of). I tried loosening the belt and sitting on my feet (and got yelled at). I stood on my tippy toes and stretched as far as I could but I came up short (ha!) for a long time. Years. I finally managed when I was about ten, give or take a year. You are supposed to give up your brass ring in exchange for a free trip on the Carousel but I absolutely refused to let it go. Cost my poor dad $10 too.
He tells the story much better than I do but we lived that day through very different eyes. For me, the ring was all that mattered and the rest was not important. For him, the ring was a small part of the big picture.
I haven’t been in Spokane in YEARS but I miss that carousel and think of it often. That and the trash eating goat sculpture. It was such a fun city to be little in.
When I think about grabbing the brass ring now, it’s a lot less literal. For me, the brass ring is getting my stories in the hands of readers who might find them fun, interesting, inspiring, infuriating – I’m not picky about the emotion so long as there is one. A figurative brass ring is a lot harder to catch but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
I’m older and wiser now and the ring has become one part of my big picture but it is one part I’ve not reached yet. I’m a lot closer than I was – I have books published and available to be read, other books still in the process of finding the right publisher, other books still in the writing and editing process. I have a lot of short stories in a lot of anthologies too. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point and I can see that brass ring now. I think my fingers have brushed it a time or two. I’m not sure how to define when I’ve caught it but I think I’ll know when I do. Of course, when I do, a new brass ring will drop into the arm and I’ll have to chase that one too.
My brass ring is very real but it is a symbol for me. I’ve kept it within easy reach for all these years because it matters to me. It is my reminder that if I am dedicated, if I keep reaching and don’t give up, I’ll snag it eventually.