Back in his hometown for Christmas after a grueling work-related travel schedule, Dan just wanted to relax with family. So many old classmates had moved away. Still, he might see someone he knew. He volunteered to go to the store to buy whipping cream for Irish coffee. But on Christmas Eve in Peoria, Illinois, the only merchants open were those convenience stores that seem to never close, not even for Christ’s birth.

As it happened, by blind chance or divine providence, at the same time at a nearby house the Anderson family needed eggnog. The Anderson’s adult daughter Jill—now a second-grade teacher—volunteered to venture out alone. Maybe she’d run into someone she knew, maybe not.

Stopping her car at the neighborhood convenience store, Jill grabbed her purse, hopped out, went in, and marched back to the dairy cooler, a woman on a mission: Nativity Eve eggnog. She did not notice when Dan came in. He, however, noticed her.

Years had passed since those days at Woodruff High School when Dan and Jill were dating and Dan had written poetry for her. The two had gone steady, then broke up. After high school, Jill headed to Western Illinois University to major in elementary education. Dan went to the University of Illinois at Chicago to study theater, then to Colorado to pursue a musical career. He perfected those poetry skills, enough to become a successful songwriter. Now, on Christmas Eve 1976, he pondered how things had played in Peoria. But even after a few shared beers, they both saw: Time had tied knots. Or, as Oregon poet William Stafford might say, they were braided apart.

By the time Dan released his 1980 hit “Same Auld Lang Syne,” Jill had long since left Peoria, the past, and returned to teaching. Dan Fogelberg (1951-2007) went back to traveling/performing, eventually recording his autobiographical song that ends: “Just for a moment I was back at school / And felt that old familiar pain. / And as I turned to make my way back home / The snow turned into rain.”

Gary Altman


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