Evanston RoundTable, June 21, 2023
Last week we celebrated the 52nd anniversary of the day we met. We did it the way we always do, by reenacting the moment. It was a fleeting moment – a minute or two either way and our lives would have been altered irrevocably – but we grabbed it and turned history our way.
The details are simple. June 12, 1971, was a beautiful Sunday in Chicago. Sometime midday I made my way to the tennis courts by the Waveland Golf Course at Irving Park Road and the lake. Racket in hand, I was hoping to find a game. But the top of the hour came and went, and no one seemed to be looking for a doubles partner.
Ronna lived in a large high-rise a block away and had wandered into the park with her new Pentax camera to give it a try. I saw her walk by. She looked like a dream, like a starlet, like Audrey Hepburn.
I found myself walking as if in a trance in her direction. I had the presence of mind to think, “I’ll need a line.” She sat down on a bench in front of the tennis courts. I approached and said the first thing that popped into my mind: “Excuse me, are you a professional photographer?” Instead of shooing me away or hooting derisively, she invited me to join her – or I just took it upon myself: we can’t remember. She didn’t seem to mind my scruffy appearance.
We talked for an hour, on the bench and wandering around the park. She was a third-grade teacher. She had a master’s in education. The youngest sibling in a large, loving Jewish family. Bright. Fun. Engaging.
But was also fairly conservative, which is why the next thing she did was so surprising, so out-of-character: She invited me up to her 39th-floor apartment!
Of course I agreed, but I knew from her sensible demeanor not to expect anything “untoward.” She showed me a binder of her photos. We exchanged phone numbers. She must have offered me something to eat or drink, but neither of us can remember.
I’m sure I told her about myself. I was also a youngest sibling from a large, loving family. Nine months older and three inches taller. (Don’t laugh: these are important considerations!) Also Jewish, also non-observant. A few months into a two-year stint as a conscientious objector. Future prospects hazy.
But surprise No. 2, she seemed not to mind. Or more likely, she saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself.
We were married 18 months later at the old North Shore Hotel (now The Merion) in downtown Evanston. But our wedding was a dull affair – a dull, cold day with a dull band playing dull music and a dull rabbi officiating. We’ve always considered and celebrated June 12th as our “real” anniversary.
In later years we’d drag our kids there to witness the reenactment, which seemed appropriate enough. After all, they wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t been there. After they outgrew the ceremony, we dragged our grandson, but he’s outgrown it too.
No matter, we still love to go ourselves. We drive down to the courts and park. I take the racket out of the trunk. Ronna takes the camera (the same Pentax) out of the back seat. She wanders off. I busy myself with something, then pretend to notice her as I did in 1971: a vision of the future. She sits down. I approach. I say – well, you know what I say.
This December will mark our golden anniversary. How does something like that happen? I like to joke the single-most important factor in a long relationship is inertia, but no one seems to think that’s funny. OK, so more seriously it’s the three Cs: compromise, communication and comedy, i.e. a sense of humor.
As we pack up from the park reenactment, we laugh at our goofy selves and marvel that another year has come and gone and wonder at the long expanse and short duration – half a century in a blink.
And we are grateful to the cosmos that brought us so fatefully together.