When I was a kid, we’d refer to the really smart kids as “Einsteins.” If somebody came up with the answer to an elusive question or a truly clever way to do something, we’d call it “pulling an Einstein.”
The German-born theoretical physicist is known for his overall genius as well as his discovery of the Theory of Relativity. He also discovered the mass-energy equivalence formula and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921.
He made headlines then, and he’s making them now, even though he passed away in 1955. The most recent Einstein headline, however, touched my heart rather than my mind.
It regards a letter the scientist wrote to his son, Eduard Einstein, estimated to be from 1929. The letter soon will be auctioned by Boston’s RR Auction and is expected to go for more than $100,000.
But it’s not the price that’s got my heart. It’s the letter itself. In the letter, Einstein reflects on his life’s work and on his close relationship with his son. He calls it a “deep inner kinship” and in the letter invites Eduard – away at high school – home for Easter and writes about his upcoming 50th birthday party. He calls his son by his nickname, Tetel, and recommends books to him.
“It seems to me it has been so long since I have seen you, and I am longing to have you around me once again,” Einstein wrote. He signed the letter, “Papa.”
I’ve always pictured Albert Einstein as one of those driven geniuses that cannot seem to pull away from his work. Whether I’m right or wrong, he obviously managed to pull away long enough to write an endearing letter to his son.
Einstein’s letter to his son is a sharp contrast to the all-too-often way we see parents treat their children today. On a daily basis, it seems, headlines are filled with atrocities inflicted on children by their own parents.
It also has me thinking about how I myself relate to my children.
I love and appreciate them – dearly – but how often do I go out of my way to make that known to them? Probably not often enough.
That’s true of most relationships, whether it’s parent-child, husband-wife, sibling-sibling, friend-friend or even neighbor-neighbor. Certainly, we don’t love and appreciate to the same degree in each kind of relationship, but we do love and appreciate in some way. Or, at least we should.
In this age of digital communication, social media and hurried everything, we’ve fallen away from what some consider the “old-fashioned” custom of letter writing. We usually don’t have (or make) the time to pause our lives and pen a letter. Yet, there’s something about a handwritten card or letter that has “I care about you” written all over it. Perhaps it’s time to make an old-fashioned custom a new fashion.
Letters like the one Albert wrote to Eduard Einstein are worth far, far more than $100,000 —even if written just five minutes ago and by a person of absolutely no fame. They are invaluable because they connect us with the other in a manner that can’t be replicated.
It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that out.
(Fenelon, a mother of four, and her husband, Mark, belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Visit her website: www.margefenelon.com.)