My favourite photograph of Benedict Ambrose--with whom I fell in love 14 years ago today--doesn't look very much like him, mostly because it was taken when B.A. was only about 11 months old. He is seated on the carpet, wearing white baby shoes and blue dungarees and a red turtleneck of a very 1970s vintage. He has white-blond hair and sticky-out ears and big eyes that are so dark, you can't tell they're blue. However, this is the truest photo of Benedict Ambrose in existence because he looks so absolutely delighted to be alive. He is simply beaming at the camera.
I have another photograph of a beaming Benedict Ambrose, taken more than 40 years later. He doesn't like this photograph, and no wonder. He's lying in a hospital bed, he's got a large untrimmed beard shot with grey, and he has marks on his face from some fall or other--which is why I took the photo. It is likely that, when this photo was taken, he was so sick he was simply out of his mind. However, he was also absolutely delighted to see me.
So we have photos of the two extremes of B.A.'s life: the happy infant who has no idea about the troubles that may be in store for him in life, and the dangerously ill man who is deliriously happy his wife is there and otherwise doesn't have a clue. But both photos sum up what has always been so wonderfully attractive about Benedict Ambrose: his unusually sunny and sanguine disposition.
"Sometimes," B.A. would say to that.
"Usually," I reply.
And it's a wonderful gift to be married to an unusually sunny, sanguine, patient man, especially as an often stormy, pessimistic, and impatient woman. I can still call to memory outrageous offences against my dignity when I was four (for example, the future drug addict/criminal who mutilated my doll) whereas B.A. recalls (to me) very serious family betrayals without a whisper of a hint of resentment. In so far as a child ever "bounced back" from disappointments, B.A. actually did bounce. He was okay; he is okay.
In some very good ways, he's like a happy rubber ball. And this is extremely fortunate for me because on my snappish and snarly days, days in which I would most definitely hurt the feelings of a more sensitive man (or any of my relations), B.A. is not hurt but merely concerned because I seem to be unhappy. To really get on B.A.'s nerves, I have to throw myself on the floor and scream--which fortunately I haven't done for some time, and I bet you would have done it, too, given those particular circumstances, just saying.
Anyway, I (unsurprisingly) fell in love with this human sunbeam 14 years ago, and he (possibly more surprising, unless you knew about his ancient crush on Dame Emma Kirkby) fell in love with me, and it was like the sun coming out from behind a cloud around noon. It lit up the next fourteen years. It lit up the previous fourteen years. It was just one of those days (and weeks and months and years) that make unpleasant days and memories on either side pale and seem much more insignificant. We were so in love, we were probably actually insane, and our marriage would have been invalid if I hadn't got cold feet the day before the wedding and turned up in a very cautious, reflective mood.
Naturally it ruined my career as a professional Single, and I suppose--had I any brains--I would have had a super Seraphic Singles podcast by now (maybe in three languages!) and figured out how to counsel other Singles in the age of Swipe Right. However, I would rather have Benedict Ambrose and that's all there is to it.
What I can say about my pre-Benedict Ambrose writings about being Single is that it taught me to do my best to live a meaningful life as a Single. I believe that made me the kind of person I needed to be to be a happy married person. It certainly made me the person I needed to be to meet B.A. and appreciate him. So if you are Single and find this post vaguely depressing, contemplate that what you do NOW with your Singleness can contribute to your life LATER as a married person--if you marry, and in my experience, most Catholic Singles who want to marry eventually do.