My last season on the circus -- Famous Hunt's Circus, to be exact -- was the summer of 1978. It was a weird, kind of depressing season, with bad weather and sparse audiences. But one of the brightest spots on that show was that I got to know Mike and Janice Aria.
Mike and Janice had a bear act, with one grizzly and one black bear. The bears were trained well and treated with love. They also had five golden retrievers. They were training the dogs to be an act on their own. It was so much fun to watch them practice with them!
As you can see, Mike was pretty easy to look at, as was Janice. Janice graduated from Clown College in 1972, three years before I did, and spent some time on the Ringling show as a clown. They were good friends and helped me cope with the rather unwelcome attentions of the creepy, middle-aged man who had a horse act.
Of course, after I left the circus I lost touch with them. Isn't that always the way? Your life changes, and somehow the people you care so much about stay planted in the past and your world spins away to new friends, new experiences. I learned just a couple of years ago that Mike had died from ALS in the late 80s.
I didn't think Janice was coming to the reunion -- her name wasn't on any of the lists of attendees. Then, as we gathered at Circus World, I saw her! I ran up to her, very nervous, wondering if she would even remember me. But she did! And it was like I'd seen her just yesterday, like no time had passed, like we only been traveling to the next lot instead of living separate lives for 30 years.
We spent a lot of time together, catching up, sharing our now-lives and reliving our then-lives, and she is every bit as wonderful and funny and loving as ever she was.
I guess that's what reunions are for, eh?