The View From A High Place

Every now and again on the journey of life, it’s like you come to a high place, and as you stand on the crest of that hill, the panorama of your life spreads before you in the low places, stretching 364 degrees. The only part you can’t see is the future, a narrow sliver of reality, an unknown entity that could be seventy seconds or seventy years long. And everything you see makes sense. You can see all the connections, all the causalities.

Tonight is the fifteenth anniversary of my first date with the man who became my husband. Maybe it’s tiresome—saccharine, even—to mark this date, but I always do.

Perhaps it was because the anniversary fell on choir night this year. As we stood before the group, running through announcements before dismissal, all of a sudden I couldn’t stop storytelling. But not about the date itself—about the night that he asked me out.

All Saints Day was a chilly day in 1995, but not bitter. I must have been stressed, because when I walked from the fine arts building over to the Newman Center, the sight of the sun sinking over run-down rental houses called me to sit on the steps and rest. I remember nothing about that sunset except that afterward, the knot of anxiety was gone …and that the entire time I sat there, I was wondering if Christian had arrived yet. We’d been in the choir together for a mere three weeks, and he was on my mind a lot.

When I went inside, it was still early, but he was there. The next thing I remember is that the choir was headed to the Heidelberg for dinner after Mass, and I debated not going; I didn’t really know the choir members yet, and they all enough older than me that I felt like that annoying kid that has to hang with the grownups. But I went…probably in the hopes that Christian would come, too. But he wasn’t there, and I sat at the end of the long table, with no one across from me. I tried to participate in conversation without being annoying. I ordered toasted ravioli and a salad. And just when I had given up all hope, he walked in the door at the far end of the room. And walked around the table. And sat down across from me.

At some point in the next hour (forty minutes? Two hours? Time kind of disappeared)), I realized that he and I had retreated into our own little world. The rest of the choir shared conversation with each other, but we were oblivious. Afterward, he gave me a ride home in the dark, with a business card—the opening volley in the Game. I knew what needed to be done with it, but I had no idea how to phrase my interest gracefully.

From such beginnings…

Once the doors of memory are open, I start seeing other snippets of my past. The night when we walked from the Missouri Theater to Shakespeare’s for a late-night snack with my parents after a performance. (Me? Did I ever actually do things like that?) Walking downtown hand in hand on cold nights. Being out and about at eleven and midnight—hours we never, ever keep these days, even at New Year’s, because we prefer to be rested when the kids wake up. The little adjustments that happened automatically, like learning to drink water instead of soda, because it would be impolite to order something more expensive than Christian did. From my high vantage point, I can see the cogs interlocking, snapping into place like pieces of a puzzle. Despite the years of doubt and overwhelming anxiety that kept us from getting married for four years, we were two becoming one from the earliest days.

So much we didn’t know yet—so much contained in that sliver of the future which now is the past. Infertility, Down syndrome….all part of a shadowy future that we didn’t bother trying to penetrate. A shadowy future that now gleams jewel-bright, a handful of tiles among many.

But the hour grows late, and the clarity of late night gives way to exhaustion. And so I leave the past behind, return to my living room, my glider rocker and ottoman, the flowered sofa and the streetlight starburst on the far wall, and turn to face the sliver that is the future. I can’t penetrate its mists, and sometimes the thought of the future, with its rocks and slippery slopes, overwhelms me. But at least the view from the high place reminds me that all life is a mosaic, and that each piece offers its own fragment of the answers I will need.