We’ve been living together for 111 days, but Roger and I met for the first time in 1968-69 during our formative years when elementary school ended, and high school began. I lived in rural Mokena, Illinois, a farm town an hour south of Chicago in a sea of corn. He lived in the very sophisticated Chicago-adjacent Park Forest, a planned community with tree-lined streets, the location of my first MacDonald’s hamburger and the legendary Park Forest Plaza, my first shopping mall experience, clearly a cultural Mecca. What we had in common, aside from our schools being in the same athletic conference, and our teams pretty much hating each other, was a music teacher named Sharon Connolly. Miss Connolly, as she was known to us, was an entrepreneurial musician who saw in our two schools a group of particularly talented young people, whom she gathered in a choir she named Illinois Youth Chorale.
At the time he was on my radar only in that he was a cute jock who seemed like a troublemaker, and I was on his radar only as much as every other cute girl with breasts and a pulse. Illinois Youth Chorale performed for several years and forever connected me with dear friends and their parents who changed my life. But, not Roger. We ran with different crowds and disappeared from each other’s lives. Thankfully. Because the half century between then and now gave us time to evolve. When Facebook finally reconnected us, we were different people. Fate aligned us in ways we could not have known until the seminal events of our adulthood were in the past.
Now our shared history is the foundation of our relationship. Not just Illinois Youth Chorale, the Summer of Love and classic rock, but also the trajectory of our personal lives. We see how the outcomes of our respective marriages, our career paths, cohabitation and home ownership, and the isolation of being single for years delivered us to each other with compatible perspectives. We are more patient, more tolerant, and wiser about what we wish for because we are so much older. We make allowances for our differences because we want the partnership. This fresh take on couplehood is the gift of time. We are better partners because we have learned so much from our past lives. We earned this happiness with all that came before it. No regrets. There was only one path to this moment, and it’s the path we took. Perhaps that’s why we’re counting the days. We know this too shall pass.
The sages have said those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That applies to personal relationships as much as it does to politics and pandemics. President Nixon was in office when Illinois Youth Chorale made our holiday album, “We Wish You the Merriest,” with a group photo on the cover that includes both Roger and me. We have Miss Connolly to thank for that. Never doubt the lifelong impact of a dedicated schoolteacher. Now two holiday seasons 50 years apart and we are together again, sharing the best of times in the worst of times. Anything is possible.