Base of Strength
The phone call came late in the evening. It was hard to decipher the message being delivered through the sobs. “Annetta, you need to get to the Children’s Hospital as soon as possible. Sophia has been terribly hurt in a car accident. Cheryl is here.”
My stomach sank; I inherently knew this was the beginning of a painful journey. I needed to be with my base. . .
I met Cheryl Lindley on the first day I was auditioning for a last minute corporate gig for a small community circus in San Diego. I showed up, not knowing what to expect and she was the first person who greeted me. “Oh. Hi ya. Do you teach? I hope so. We could use some really good teachers around here. Get this woman signed up! She looks pretty good.” I laughed uncomfortably and thought, “kinda weird” as I entered the unexpected zone of circus chaos. I was to show my skills right in the middle of a Fern Street Circus community after school program. I was hired for the gig and roped into teaching immediately.
Through my years at Fern Street I racked up many ridiculous, beautiful, unusual experiences. The best thing, however, was partnering up with Cheryl Lindley for an adagio balance duet. “I’m really bored of my skills. I think I’m going to become a base.” I heard her mumble one day. I thoughtlessly responded, “I’ve gotta always remain on top. I’ll be your flyer.” And so it began. Initially we were horrible. The worst part, however, was that we believed we were amazing and began booking ourselves way too soon. (We performed an epically awful routine at a Jewish temple that will never be forgotten in the circus world or the religious community.) Over time we improved and because we are both stubborn, tenacious, hard-core and extremely talented we became quite marketable.
Cheryl was more than a circus base. She was now my best friend and soul sister. (You become very close when having to daily put your head in precarious places on another person’s body.) I loved Cheryl and her quirky family very much. I loved her beautiful kids. Sophia was her overtly funny, sparkly, gorgeous 14 year old daughter. She was an aerialist and all around hoot.
. . . As I sped toward the hospital I was filled with grief.
For 3 weeks we kept vigil as Sophia lay unresponsive and stuffed with tubes, needles, bags of fluids, oxygen, shunts and other life prolonging paraphernalia. Cheryl was heroic. Her strength helped the many friends, relatives and circus family members to cope with the devastating situation.
Sophia died on September 3, 2005.
The first thing Cheryl said to me when she was able to have a conversation was, “I had been preparing all of these years to help you get through Jaidon’s death when it arrived. Isn’t it strange that it has been reversed?”
Nothing could have been stranger.
Cheryl has been an amazing and inspiring pillar of strength throughout and since Sophia’s departure. I have watched her, as most do, in awe. She and her husband founded a circus school, The Sophia Isadora Academy of Circus Arts. She has continued to perform internationally; she has created shows, and art to be greatly admired.
In a poignant way, she did help me more than anyone throughout Jaidon’s journey.
She laid the strongest foundation anyone could expect from a base. She held me up, led the way, and she made it possible for me to fly… always on top.