Monday, September 05, 2011

Forty years later

It was Labor Day in 1971; my parents had moved me into Spanish House (one of several Language dorms at Oberlin College) and were on their way back to Chicago. Almost sick with excitement, I organized books and LPs (long-playing records!!) in anticipation of classes beginning the next day.

Also that day, I had an audition scheduled for the Oberlin Choir. Having trained for nearly ten years as a violist, I'd rejected a full scholarship to the university my viola teacher had selected as the place to train for a life with professional orchestras. Instead, I had fallen crazy in love with this small liberal arts college and conservatory in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio, and was taking advantage of things never tried before, like a demanding choir.

When I arrived at the doorway to the choir room, a tall, wavy-haired student with the most delightful light dancing in his big brown eyes waited to greet the hopeful singers. He stuck his hand inside the neck of his blue striped shirt, and I looked up at him and asked, "Are you a tester?"

Huh? What kind of weird question was that? But he said, "Well, yes and no." He was the assistant choir manager, sending students in and out of the room. I went in, sang a Handel aria, and was told on the spot that I would be assigned to Alto II because I had such rich low notes.

So, here it is, forty years later, that same week. The wavy-haired "tester" is reading a book while I type, and we've been married for 36 years. We don't get to sing together in an ensemble anymore, but perhaps after we both retire from the priesthood, we can do so again.

Auditioning for the Oberlin Choir changed the direction of my life. I'd been determined to complete college and then join a Roman Catholic convent. That didn't happen, which is for the best. I had been bored silly by young men before landing outside the Pennington Choir Room that September day in 1971. The same tall, brown-eyed assistant manager still makes me laugh, as no one else can. I don't know how anyone should deserve to be as lucky as I am.