The telephone call from Alex last Saturday was like the Flexible Flyer I found beside the tree with my name on it when I was seven – a wonderful gift.
Alex told me he had just received an early-admissions acceptance letter from Hampshire College, his first choice. I remember the founding of this progressive school in the late 60’s.
When I unwrapped my early Christmas gift with Ruth Fine on Sunday afternoon, sharing the call from Alex, she recalled the opening line from a Soundings letter I wrote on September 22, 1987: “For Unto us a child is born, a son is given. And his name shall be called Alexander Hall Hildreth.” I was amazed that Ruth remembered.
My daughter Sue and son-in-law, Chip, gave their son my middle name for his first, and my surname for his middle. My first grandchild was born under a new star, September 20, 1987.
In that letter I recounted my trip to the hospital in Natick to see Alex for the first time; he was lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and I was one of the Magi. I entered the old story on the afternoon of the day of his birth. At precisely 4:45, Sue handed him to me and with tears running down her cheeks she said, “Dad, this is a miracle.” Then the tears ran down my cheeks.
In that moment Sue and I knew the deep truth that was told in the mythological gospel story of Luke; we shared the epiphany, discovering what the magi found when they left their kingdoms, made the long, difficult journey and found the source of the Divine in the humble stable.
Every birth is a miracle. Every child is sacred.
Ruth’s reminder about the birth letter sent me to the files. I had forgotten that I wrote in that letter that Sue and Chip had moved into their first house, which was a humble abode, a fixer-upper, as they say, but it was their own. They created a home.
A few days before Alex’s call about college I got an email from Sue announcing the purchase of their new home, in Carlyle, MA. It’s Sue’s dream house, made possible by Chip’s very successful work as an electrical engineer, moving to a top management position as senior vice president of his company – a company he helped grow from a small sole proprietorship to a substantial firm with hundreds of employees, going public last summer.
After the birth narrative in the Bible there’s only one mention of Jesus growing up — the time when he was twelve and went on his own to talk with Temple elders, causing his parents to be worried. The eighteen years between my birth-announcement letter and this one have, of course, been spattered with worries as well as celebrations. That’s what it’s like to raise a child – and Sue and Chip have done it well. Alex and his sister Hannah are fortunate, indeed.
Meanings emerge from mythologies. Thoreau summarized it well: “If the day and night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more starry, more immortal, that is you success…pause and bless yourself.”