Yesterday, we celebrated my 47th birthday. It’s a nothing-burger of a number, so undramatic that I actually forgot my age. Sheri had to remind me. Turns out I’m younger than I thought.
But am I young enough to have a crush on a 19-year-old woman? Or is it creepy? Does it make a difference if she’s my wife?
For a month or so now, this photo has sat in a frame on my desk. Where it came from or how it rose to the top of our pile of old photos, I’m not exactly sure. But when I saw it, I wanted it on my desk. It’s the young woman, aged 19, who will one day be my wife, and she’s careening down the slope of a famous Michigan sand dune named Sleeping Bear. Frankly, if Sheri were turning 19 again this year, she’d probably still be running down that slope. The more things change …
But she’s not 19. She’s 63. And when this photo was taken I was still pooping my pants and saying “No!” a lot.
I’ve written before about how Sheri in her 20s would never have paid a twenty-something me much attention. Sheri at 19, though, the young woman who is hurtling down this hill – she might have liked a 19-year-old me, and I her. She is so much the woman I love, before she is distracted by dangerous men in her twenties. Her world is all sun and sand and picnic benches at the hill’s bottom, and earnest joy.
But we didn’t meet, and couldn’t have, and so, in a strange way, all I’m allowed is a crush on her from a distance of some 44 years.
Sheri doesn’t seem jealous of the way I fancy her younger self. That makes sense. She’s still married to the 47-year-old me, and that won’t change. And the part of me that’s smitten with a 19-year-old Sheri isn’t the part that’s here with her now, and married, and which on my birthday hiked alongside her for five miles over a central Maryland mountain. The part of me that’s smitten isn’t even sitting at my office desk admiring her in black-and-white. It’s 19-years-old, just as she is, and watching her from a picnic bench in Michigan in 1967, pleased and hopeful and impossible.