That our paths ever crossed in the first place is a miracle.
Separated by time, space, and circumstance, I spent the first 39 years of my life utterly oblivious to his existence.
In fact, for the first 12 years of my life, Ben Banbury did not yet exist at all.
I grew up in the Florida panhandle; he in Virginia. I dragged my reluctant, privileged butt through high school, majored in English at a college financed entirely by my parents, and went on to earn a master’s degree. Ben attended Richmond Community High School, an alternative school dedicated to providing “outstanding education for gifted students whose socioeconomic circumstances limited their ability to succeed.” He earned a full academic scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University, but dropped out after a single, tumultuous year and ended up in the field of commercial construction.
Undeterred by physical contact, in his spare time Ben pursued sports like boxing and jiujitsu. I studied ballet as a girl and, as an adult, favored friendly games of tennis or leisurely paced jogs around the neighborhood. I had my first child at age 33, following six years of marriage and plenty of research into the best ob-gyn and pediatric practices in the area. Ben’s first child was a happy surprise announced to him over dinner on his 21st birthday.
But there we both found ourselves, in the disconcerting wake of ill-fated first marriages, watching our children discover each other amidst the cooling outdoor fountains of the Children’s Museum of Richmond. (Some of you will be familiar with this part of our story from my earlier article, “The Many Ways we Miss Out on the Love of our Life.”)
The precise combination and sheer magnitude of moments—many of them joyous, some absolutely devastating—that had to come together for our lives to intersect in that exact spot on that particular July day is staggering to contemplate. Six years later, the beauty of that coincidence became the subject of my husband’s gift to me: an original poem on the occasion of my 45th birthday.
An atypical construction worker in practically every respect, my husband’s lyrical spirit (much like his progressive political leanings, officer status with Dungeons and Dragons Online, and adoration of the 1954 movie classic “White Christmas”) is virtually unknown to his coworkers.
And so it is with his permission that I “out” him as a poet and share his words with you today.
May they remind us all of the utter impracticality of regret.
I dreamed I was old
I sat on an oak-stained bench, in a park beside a fountain
Water sprang from the mouth of a marbled cherub
To plink quietly and ripple the clear surface below
The basin was studded with flickering points of light
Copper wishes, kissed and cast into the air
Offerings at the angel’s feet for hope, and love, and luck.
I sat twisting my own wish between gnarled fingers
Sifting through strands of memory
Thinking I might find a moment on which to spend my wish
A wrong I could right or a slight undo. A regret I could cause to vanish
But the weaving of my life was twisted and snarled
Each moment attached to a thread with every other
Every second intertwined with the moment of our meeting
When your thread enlivened the pattern of my life
And two lives became one.
I gazed into the fountain a moment longer
And slipped the wish back into my pocket.
With a thousand wishes and in all of my dreams
I would always wish for you.