In 1974 The Three Degrees hit the top spot on the adult contemporary chart with the song “When Will I See You Again.”
The song, which poses a series of questions about the early stages of a relationship, was a big hit in England, too, and the Philadelphia soul group performed it at Prince Charles’ 30th birthday party in Buckingham Palace.
I always liked the opening of the song where the trio comes in behind the strings to sing the line “Precious moments…”
Lead singer Shelia Ferguson said she hated the tune when she first heard it and angrily declared she would never sing it, believing that “it was ridiculously insulting to be given such a simple song.” She would later admit she had called that one wrong.
And from now on, whenever I hear this song I’ll think of a girl named Janet.
I met Janet—or Jeannette as she liked to be called—at a friend’s party in the Bronx some 40 years ago. She was a lovely young girl who was so funny and so outgoing and we just hit it off.
“When Will I See You Again” was climbing the charts at the time and every so often Janet would sing out the single line “is this my beginning or is this the end?”
It would be nice if I could tell you that this evening was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but that’s not how things worked out.
Will I Have to Wait Forever?
Janet and I spoke over the phone a few times after that evening and there was even some discussion of me being her prom date, but that fell through, we drifted out of each other’s lives, and I never saw her again.
I hadn’t thought about her in decades and then I learned that Janet died last weekend after a long illness. The hostess of that party in the Bronx posted the terrible news on her Facebook page and I still can’t believe it.
The funny teenaged girl that I knew so briefly went on to be the mother of four children, the owner of her own real estate business, and treasurer for the Board of Realtors in Westchester.
When I think back on the party it is with a strange kind of double vision, where the memory is both hazy and quite sharp at the same time. It was a very precious moment indeed.
It’s frightening that someone who was so full of life can be snuffed out like that. “When Will I See You Again” poses a series of questions, but I have just one: why? Why did this happen?
Of course there’s no answer to that question. Life is not fair and rarely makes sense.
If there are any lessons to be learned here I guess it would be the basic ones that so many of us never seem to get: be thankful for what you have and enjoy every moment of your life because tomorrow is promised to absolutely no one.
I keep telling myself to follow these simple rules, but then I turn around and find myself getting all twisted over some bit of nonsense that will be forgotten in no time.
Share those precious moments and don’t wait forever because right now is all you have and there are some people you may never see again.