Twenty-some years ago, I walked a sidewalk on a Hartford evening, side-by-side a pony-tailed volleyball-playing co-worker. You know who I’m taking about. Among a group of other journos coming out of a bar, Sheri and I nevertheless ended up in our own chat, as we seemed often to do those days. Side-by-side walking. Practice, I suppose.
We talked about what each of us hoped would come next in our own lives. Sheri mentioned Montana, and I allowed as how I wanted to write fiction. Stories. Maybe a novel. I had cockeyed ideas about graduate school, but didn’t how to apply or how much it cost or anything, really. Even as they came out of my mouth, the words, “graduate school,” made as much sense to me as “string theory” does now. I was 26 and clueless.
Some people might have laughed. Some might have pointed out the difficulty of uprooting a life for graduate school, of the cost, of the years given to a pursuit that would not be lucrative and perhaps not even successful. But Sheri listened to a younger man’s quixotic ambition, and she never varied the pace of her steps. And later, when I wanted to move to Arkansas for that mythical graduate school, she still kept pace.
Today is publication day. Twenty years later, my first book of fiction comes into the world.
And I think it is true that the reason I have both book and Sheri in my life is that twenty-years ago an older woman listened to the optimism of youth and made room on that sidewalk for what was unlikely, maybe even daft, and she considered it possible.