I have always been a proud New Yorker. I like my pizza thin and cut into triangles. I like my bagels overwhelmingly covered in seasoning with a rainbow assortment of cream cheeses. I like walking fast and getting in and out of stores even faster. So naturally I was skeptical when I moved to Chicago, which seemed like a world away from my home. I was a 23-year-old waiter in Greenwich Village before I got the call from Lyric to join the chorus. I was ecstatic–my first job singing at an A list opera house. The only catch was that I would need to move to a city that I had been to only once and for a few days during a vacation. I had lived in another state before, for college, but it was nearby on the east coast. This time I would be truly away from home.
My family is incredibly close- Thanksgiving is the best day of the year for us because we get to see everyone. My sister and I would talk about what has been going on in our lives, my parents would have dinner and then watch hockey (my mother is a diehard Rangers fan), I would get together with my grandparents for lunch or surprise visits. Could I really be okay with none of that happening anymore? How could I completely uproot my life and move to a place where I only knew about four people?
As it would so happen, the people I would work with in the chorus were very nice. It turns out I actually did know a few people in the chorus from past jobs and school. They introduced me to their friends, who introduced me to their friends, until I had become acquainted with just about everyone I was working with. In addition, my parents and grandparents all flew out to Chicago to see Nabucco. Over the summer, I also signed up with the Grant Park chorus, so I would be working most of the year. The following season at the Lyric, I was hired for two shows. My family and I were thrilled. That was twice as many shows as my first season! My moving to Chicago was solidified. I moved all of my things to Old Irving Park where I lived with two flat mates.
It has been about five years since Nabucco. I moved from Old Irving to Ravenswood, where I live by myself. The people that I had called acquaintances that first year have become very dear to me. I’ve shared meals with them, gone to movies, been to their homes, shared my troubles and have had their troubles shared with me. They know me, and I know them. A lot of them came to my birthday party this year. I know that without their support, there have been more than a few days I would have had great difficulty getting through.
There is a saying about blood and water and their various levels of thickness. Most of the time it is said that “blood is thicker than water,” meaning that your familial bond is stronger than any bond of friendship. This is a common misuse of the phrase; the original longer version is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” The people that you choose to love and let love you are the people that become your family. I have felt more welcomed and accepted and loved by the Lyric chorus than at any other community where I have worked. We have laughed, grieved, and fought together. My parents still fly in to see shows, and when they do, they also get to see my second family.
I am now a proud Chicagoan. I take the Metra and the CTA. I have had Mallort, albeit reluctantly. When I need to get passed someone I tell them that “I’m just gonna sneak right by ya there.” But most importantly I have surrounded myself with people that I love, and those people are the people I get to see every day in the chorus. I get to have not one, but two families. As far as I’m concerned, I am the luckiest person in the world.