Jude has fallen in love and she's in such a state! Her smile is 50% wider and slightly lopsided, which gives her an off-kilter charm that is completely unaffected.
Everything, from her voice to her movements to her laugh, is lighter, looser. She is an entirely responsible person, but you have the sense that she and her love could just jump into a Thunderbird and roar off, having everything they need in the front seat.
I had kind of forgotten this state, what another friend calls the Bumping Into Furniture Stage.
In early adulthood, that stage is ubiquitous—your cohort are continually climbing into hot-air balloons, casting off the sandbags. Perhaps because the phenomenon was prevalent, like a murmuration of sparrows, we lost sight of its wonder.
The came midlife, when our busy-ness obscured noting the moment's giddy effervescence. If you had children, the teenage years meant watching over easily-broken and uncertain hearts. Falling in love was not quite as fun to witness when it involved a 15-year-old who wondered if he could live without a sullen girl whose ferret peed on your best jacket.
Now, I am 65 and friends long on their own are falling in love—not everyone, not predictably, and often as surprising to them as to me. Lucinda called, her voice breaking with emotion, to say, "I never thought this would happen again."
This post-50 falling in love is more complicated. Children weigh in, sometimes very assertively: He's not that funny. Oh no, he's got a stupid beard. Habits are more ingrained. You don't just throw your stuff in a box and move in anymore.
If hope is "the thing with feathers/that perches in the soul", the most magnificent plumage belongs to rekindled hope, the reconnection with possibility, anticipation, discovery.
"I'm not afraid", Lucinda said, "because I have loved before and know what that involves. I just have to trust myself."
I also find friends' reactions different from thirty or forty years ago. There's still the same vetting: Is this a good person for her? But there's more acknowledgment of the ups and downs in any union, less insistence on its being perfect.
Those who have stayed in love for years watch those falling in love again, and a bit of that spangly, 120-proof joy rubs off.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.