I live in a faith-based CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community). I came here first to an independent living apartment. When needed, I moved to assisted living and now reside in the health care section. Well, we had a wonderful dinner Christmas Eve at Westminster Village, Dover to which the residents came nattily dressed in their finest, and to the wonderment of many, I’m sure, I wore a black T-shirt with a portrait of Albert Einstein on the front.
A friend came by, acknowledging to all who would hear that he knew me, saying, “He was an active chaplain for four (1942-1946) years in the U.S. Navy, even sailing around the world in 1945 on the maiden voyage of the U.S.S. General A.W. Greely ship. For 35 (1946-1981) years, he served as pastor of a large church in Dover, New Jersey.” He then became interested in my story about my Albert Einstein T-shirt, asking many questions.
Einstein worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which soon became the most famous research center in the world. He did some lecturing at the university. He is quoted as saying, “I am very happy in my new home in this friendly country and the liberal atmosphere of Princeton.” He and his family bought a house at 112 Mercer Street. TIME Magazine recognized him as the “Person of the Century” in 1999.
In answer to my questioner, when I, Hugh Miller, was a student at Princeton
Theological Seminary, there was no student dining room. There were a number of eating clubs where students could choose to be members and eat. Einstein, living and working and walking around quaint Princeton, became acquainted with me, as his house on Mercer Street was located near the Benham Eating Club where I ate. This eating club had a special Christmas dinner just before students left for home. It occurred to me to invite Albert Einstein as my guest at one of those Christmas dinners. He grasped the opportunity at once, since most of the students who were members of the Benham Club knew him from his walks. As president of the club it was my responsibility to sit with him. He loved to talk and made the meal most memorable. After enjoying a great dinner, the bulk of the evening was taken up with singing Christmas carols. Since most of the songs had European roots, either the lyrics or the tune or both, he sang along with gusto.
Ever since Einstein and I went our separate ways, I have felt his spirit at every Advent season. My questioner at the dinner this Christmas Past at Westminster Village seemed satisfied that I might not quite need the banquet attire as others dressed. I was justified in not meeting the dress code. I may not be always politically correct. More importantly, I am not a senile senior citizen. As I wore my Einstein T-shirt, I had a strange feeling that Albert was present at last year’s annual Christmas dinner. To quote him: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
HUGH MCHENRY MILLERis a retired 97-year-old Presbyterian pastor and stated clerk of the former Synod of New Jersey. He currently resides in Deleware. JOHN GILMORE, a teaching elder member of New Castle Presbytery, assisted with the preparation of this piece.