One day, in our middle ages, I mentioned to my wife Linda a memory I had, a memory of when we first met. It was at a Lake Lansing dance. The cool August evening had not yet darkened, but the Moon was overhead. In the open air pavilion, above the chatter of happy people, the band played the usual pop songs of the 1960s. Some young adults danced while others stood and talked. I scanned the dance floor – and it was then that I saw her for the first time.
She stood with friends talking and laughing. Her angular features, blue eyes and simple haircut seemed perfectly posed upon broad shoulders. Her flowered blouse and navy blue pleaded skirt met at a broad belt that bound a narrow waist. "Gosh, she's good looking," I thought. I walked toward her hesitantly. She glanced my way, and as I neared, she smiled. I said, "Hi, I'm Jim." She replied, "Hi, I'm Linda." The band began a slow song and so, with no other words spoken, I put out my hand in invitation. She stepped toward me, took it, and we danced. As we looked at each other our shy smiles became sincere. Our arms pulled us closer and our cheeks met. The pavilion and people disappeared. It was just her, me and the music. We danced in slow motion.
Of course, Linda had a different memory... because when she went to those dances with her girl friends I was a high school student in Detroit. In fact, the only actual memory I had of that scene was the one she had painted for me years before... and I wasn't in it. But I wanted to be. So in retelling her story, I imagined myself in. Fortunately Linda liked my version of what happened. She even added and adjusted some details; she changed the color of her skirt and picked the music they were playing. Together we made what didn't happen a shared wishful memory. It became as real as the moment we met for the first time at the office.
Years later, a few weeks before lung cancer robbed her of breath, when her face betrayed an anxious mind struggling with her fate, I realized she needed a distraction, a happy thought. I reminded her of our wishful memory, that one of a cool summer evening, with the band playing our song, of us embracing and dancing cheek to cheek in that perfect moment. "It really happened," I said to her. "We both remember it, don't we?" She looked up at me, smiled, nodded, and gave me a kiss.