I caught my parents having sex when I was 10 years old. That summer morning, when I tried to open their bedroom door at the beach, I could see my dad on top of my mom in the twin bed. Only a hook and eye lock separated me from them and the door had opened a crack.
When Dad emerged from the bedroom, I ran in to tattletale on my brother, only to discover my mother's red lace panties on the floor next to the bed. When I observed her face, I was startled to see a glazed look of bliss that I don't remember ever seeing before. I knew then that I wanted what she had; I just didn't know exactly what it was or where to find it.
For many years now, I've been in love with the same man—not my first lover but someone I pray will be my last. Not coincidentally, Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" is playing while I knit and every time I hear it, I can't help but think it was written about us. It perfectly captures my feelings of instinctually knowing him from the instant I saw him and how our intimacy has grown over the years. I cry every time I hear it, but not because I'm sad. I'm just so grateful to have found him.
The first time I saw him was from behind. I found myself admiring his 6'2" lean frame and thick, curly black hair. When he turned around that day and we made eye contact, my core melted into his blue eyes, which resemble cracked marbles. My hormones were raging and I knew I was doomed.
As he stocked the bar with ice, I leaned toward my friend, who was standing behind the cash register at La Crepe (where we were working), and said, "Who the hell is that?"
When she turned around to see, she replied, "Him? That's just my brother."
That was the start of our 36-year love affair. My heart still quickens when he fixes his blue eyes on me in a way that I know exactly what he's thinking. And I still crave those feelings of joy that I first saw on my mother's face. And he always delivers.
Once we began dating, we never seemed able to remain more than a few inches apart. Often, our long, languorous kisses began even before I got through the doorway of his apartment. Even at work, we soon found ourselves lip-locked in the walk-in refrigerator. We often blushed when we re-entered the busy kitchen amid our co-workers. In those days, he sometimes "trembled" with desire, as Roberta Flack describes, and I felt honored to be the one who made him feel this way.
When we eventually discussed getting married, my mother humorously suggested that the best thing about dating someone younger was that you could "train him." Of course, sex back then was so hormonally charged that no training was necessary. After our wedding, we moved across the country where isolation from family and friends left plenty of time to explore each other's bodies and desires. However, once we considered having children, sex changed to a more biological function. Following a heartbreaking miscarriage, conception became our focus. Temperature charts replaced spontaneity and baby-making became a job.
After our three children were born, we once more became creative in fulfilling our desire for each other. I remember many Sunday mornings, when the children were at Sunday school, "celebrating" having the house to ourselves, often working against the clock, which just made the whole thing hotter.
Nowadays, with the kids grown and gone, we've replaced hormonal and biological sex with lovemaking that approaches spiritual heights. Oftentimes, things move slowly, but we have more free time, and no longer need to fumble around trying to guess how to please each other. My husband treats my body like a finely tuned Stradivarius cello, using his hands as gentle bows to skillfully play me. Even the disfiguring remnants of my C-section and the reconstruction of my breasts never caused him to waiver in his adoration, yet another priceless gift he has bestowed on me.
We might not look the same as we did 35 years ago, but we also don't see as well, which effectively obscures the wrinkles and folds and gray or missing hair that are the ravages of time. We've discovered that the brain is a marvelous tool for remembering our partner's best self.
Are we preoccupied some days with making a living and paying the bills? Are we too tired other days? Of course, but so far nothing has diminished our desire for each other. With each passing year, the rewards of intimacy have increased. We know now that each day is a gift; each night a new possibility.