Dr. Einstein's Neighborhood

We could tell when spring came because then he wore sandals, instead of galoshes, on his daily walk from the small, clapboard, green-shuttered house to the Institute. In summer, sometimes, he would stop as I sprayed the lawn, clumsily wetting myself. "It’s only water," he would say, laughing. But he felt strongly about water. Once, walking back from the Institute, he spoke of the lowering of the water table as more serious for the world than even the threat of war: "If I were dictator I would charge for water, everywhere. If people had to pay for it they would not waste it so much. It cannot be replaced, the water table," he said.

He would always stop and jest with the children, and there are countless stories of how he did this small girl’s arithmetic or that small boy’s sums. He quipped with the old too-a surly eighty-year-old boasted on his birthday that Einstein had kidded him on his great age as he was "cleaning up in front." He could be very funny too-once, when I was in his house, he pointed out the closed screen door approvingly. "Very useful against cranks," he said.

"Cranks?" I asked. And he replied, "Yes. All my life I have been pursued by cranks. Once I was alone here with my daughter-our dear Miss Ducas was out. And my daughter was afraid of the man, so I came down, and he tried to argue and argue with me. Finally I got a chair and sat down, and still the man talked, separated from me only by the screen door. Suddenly I said, ’Look-look at that...

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About the Author

Anne Fremantle, the prolific writer and editor, died in London on December 26, 2002. She was ninety-three. A convert to Catholicism, she became an American citizen after moving her family to the United States in 1942. From 1947 to 1958, she was an editor at Commonweal. She authored or edited more than a score of books, including poetry, fiction, and criticism, and held numerous university positions. She frequently appeared on radio and television, and served as secretary and vice-president of American P.E.N.