This is not my first love letter to Hilary, nor will it be my last. Hils has been on my mind this week, as she celebrates her fifth anniversary and as I reflect on even-year Thanksgivings in Marion with our entire family. My mother is a professional at Thanksgiving: two turkeys, over 20 people, etc. And always with aplomb and a complete lack of stress. How? I don’t know.
Anyway, back to my baby sister. I don’t think I’ve ever said it better than I did in May 1996: Hilary is the world’s only older and wiser younger sister. And I am more grateful every year that she is my older and wiser younger sister. Hilary is home: the only person who can understand the world I came from and whose terroir is largely the same as mine.
Yesterday I finished two of the three books I brought to Florida. I started the third, a book I’ve dipped into on and off throughout the years, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. It’s a gorgeous book, one whose words are swarming around in my mind, but it’s dense and not something I am able to sit and read cover to cover. So, from my seat by the pool (don’t be too jealous: I was wrapped in towels against the cold) I emailed Hilary and asked for her views on a couple of books I was considering.
She answered immediately, with a thoughtful perspective on each one. Of course she had read them both. She also chimed in that she had written her college application essays on Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I had not known though I’d have picked Annie Dillard as one of her favorite writers. I do know that Hilary’s book recommendations are always excellent. And I know that her writing is lucid and wise and beautiful. “A two star hotel far from the center of town” … I think not.
I thought about how that exchange epitomized many things about Hilary to me. She is well-read, she is generous, she is responsive, she is thoughtful. Hilary is one of probably three or four people in this world who I would genuinely call brilliant. I am in awe of her intelligence. She’s the one who called me on how I missed a major sub-plot in Middlemarch because I skimmed so aggressively (aside: Dux did the same thing re: Vanity Fair and my skimming – I think there’s a theme here with me and enormous Victorian novels). She’s modest, so you might never know, but she’s read everything Jane Austen ever wrote, and a whole lot more besides. She inhales literature and has an educated point of view on all sorts of political and legislative topics that are totally foreign to me. This may be the difference between reading NYT.com and only twitter.
Hils is also profoundly committed to the things she cares about. She and T live more in accordance with their values than anyone I’ve ever known. I admire that deeply. They are educators first and foremost, committed to both the craft of pedagogy and to the larger administrative and leadership issues around education, broadly defined.
She is a generous and loyal friend. Everybody I’ve ever gotten to know through Hilary has been absolutely wonderful. I really don’t say that lightly. She does not become close to people who are not bright and genuine, open and honest. It is my privilege to have met some of these people. I could name some of you bloggers, but I won’t. You know who you are! 🙂
Hils, thank you. Thank you for the ways you make me feel not crazy, not alone, not so sad. Thank you for your example of a way to live a life of integrity and purpose. Thank you for your wonderful, patient mothering. Thank you for having shared Q kamir and ADC and the tadpoles on the Berlin wall chunks with me, and for the way those joint experiences allow you to understand the soil we both grew in as nobody else does.
I’m looking forward to seeing you over Christmas, and to seeing our children together. I love you.