I just talked with Peggy. It was ten p.m. Paris time, and she was on a busy street. Spotlights highlighted Notre Dame; the Eiffel Tower twinkled; and searchlights crossed the sky. A continual din of sirens made me nostalgic for Inspector Clouseau. The César Awards were commencing across the street, and the press of the crowd was threatening to push her off the sidewalk. Peggy didn’t know what the César Awards were, so I did a web search, and told her they are France’s version of the Academy Awards.
I haven’t heard Peggy more excited in years than she has been every time I’ve spoken to her on this trip. It is the excitement of youth, and I miss that in her. When a boy marries a girl, he expects her to remain a girl (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) and, as the years past, and she moves ever further from girlhood, he grieves for the loss of his young love. I have often wished during these thirty-six years that I could protect Peggy, not so much from the ravages of physical aging as from the ravages of disillusionment (some of it, alas, caused by me). Disillusionment makes discernment possible, but we pay for discernment with reduced joy. It is the difference between puppyhood and dogdom, and is as sad as it is necessary.
I would have my young bride back if I could, but, to keep her love, I would have to go back too. Only, I was never so young as she, at least in my capacity for joy, because joy requires absorption in the moment, and I could never escape the thought that the moment must end. The frailty of life loomed ever before me, and its poignancy was always by my side.
When I heard her today, I wished so much that I could be there on that noisy, crowded sidewalk, not so I could see France, but so I could see Peggy. Beside her face, a million twinkling Eiffel Towers would be as dim as the cold darkness of space.
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