This is not exactly the time of year that people do their top 10s, but lately I’ve been taking inventory. Our 8-year anniversary is nearing, our house is turning into a huge potential garage sale, and I’m getting very near 40. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis, but it just so happens that decades line up with my life, having been conceived at the very beginning of the 70s. Naturally, I think in decade patterns: my adolescence in the 70s, my teens in the 80s, my 20s in the 90s.

My romance with Derek started with a film date on my 31st birthday. We’d taken a late train into downtown Prague to catch Amélie in a deserted theater. The posters of that famously pixie-charmed face had been plastered everywhere for a month. She was an odd heroine for an ominous time. The film was released just a few weeks after 9/11. I’d also loved the director’s other films (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children), but they were fairly surreal and obsessed in a gothic way, and this seemed like something new.

I’ve never felt like I was inside a film as much as this one. Sitting in the front row with only a few stragglers behind us, listening to French with Czech subtitles, neither of which I understand–I was lost in a visual, musical circus for two overwhelmingly romantic hours. It was like having a secret together; we were watching our own lives play out in front of us.

“Times are tough for romantics,” one character quipped sarcastically in the midst of a porn shop. Up till that point we’d been emailing poems back and forth to each other. He in Scotland at the time, me in Ohio. There were long awkward pauses between letters; we never wrote about any direct feelings, just gestures. Our whole courtship culminated the bizarre week of September 11; impulsively he’d flown into Boston from the UK, rented a car in the wee morning hours and landed on the George Washington Bridge when the first tower fell.

I had no idea any of this was happening, but two days later I came home from work to find a brightly wrapped silk scarf on my bed, with nothing but a short poetic line and no signature. I never saw him, even though he’d driven all the way from New York–it was a clownish stunt in an epic time. A few days later, I got an email from Denver. To anyone who believes romantic comedies are filled with impossible scenarios, I’d say you’re wrong. Our courtship went from 9/11 to Paris, from the Appalachians to Berlin. Neither of us had any money, so don’t ask how all this happened but I met the one person on the planet who still believes he’ll run away and join the circus. If you’ve seen Man on Wire, you’ve seen my husband’s personality.

After the film, we wandered through the desolate stone streets over to the usually tourist-beleaguered Charles Bridge to sip on a hot chocolate and look at the stars. It was a brilliant night and just as he went to kiss me, a flock of doves rushed out from under the bridge in front of us.

Am I allowed to say, the night was ours? Such things make you want to write cliches.

Even after many more watchings of Amélie, this time with English subtitles, and eight years of marriage, the beauty never changes for me. The world keeps sounding grimmer and grimmer, but thank God for the French. And circuses.

Without further adieu…

My Top Ten Movies of the 2000s

(in no particular order)

1. Everything Is Illuminated
2. Amélie
3. 21 Grams
4. Bourne Identity
5. The Wrestler
6. Lost in Translation
7. I’m Not There
8. The Incredibles
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
10. Wes Anderson trio: The Royal Tennenbaums, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Darjeeling Limited (I love them all, I couldn’t pick just one)