Think of a moment when your life changed. For me, there was the childhood day my brother and I were playing Candy Land and my mother announced that our father was leaving — one of the worst. There was also the day that I read a book report to my fourth-grade class and my teacher Mrs. Lowman told me that I had a gift with words — one of the best.
In his just released memoir, The Time Mom Met Hitler, Frost Came to Dinner, and I heard the Greatest Story Ever Told (Tyndale, 2015), Phippsburg author Dikkon Eberhart candidly recounts his own transformative experiences. There is the day that Eberhart, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet, Richard Eberhart, believes he has killed someone. And the day, decades later, that he ventures into the Small Point Baptist Church, just down the road from me, and receives the answer to his soul’s long searching.
In between are well-versed, riveting tales of growing up among some of America’s leading artistic figures including actress Margaret Hamilton who Eberhart was disappointed to find out didn’t sound anything like the Wicked Witch of the West when she arrived for dinner, and Dylan Thomas, who regularly read him bed-time stories after too many drinks.
Other jaw-droppers include Robert Frost opining that he did “all the talking” after meeting with the newly inaugurated President Kennedy; debates about the merits of free verse with beatnik Allen Ginsberg; making folk legend Art Garfunkel laugh, and plenty more, which might come across as name dropping except the stories are so darn funny that I often stopped reading to poke my husband and share them aloud.
Running throughout Eberhart’s entertaining prose is a search for his place and purpose in a world in which his father, one of the most prominent American poets of the twentieth century, had “used up all the words.” His wanderings encompass a Maine summer house, converting to Judaism, caring for his aging parents, and an unlikely encounter with the Gospel.
As a Jew, Eberhart says he thought of Jesus as a wise man, but that he was too elusive, too ethereal to grasp. And the resurrection? Preposterous.
“So why on earth did a committed Jew of middle age cross the road one Sunday in March in Maine?” Eberhart asks. “He crossed the road because he was trying to struggle free from his father so that he might someday be able to say something of his own.”
In the process, Eberhart confesses to the minister the worst thing he ever did.
“What would you say if I told you that God has already forgiven you for what you did?” the minister asks.
“Can God do that?” Eberhart asks.
“Of course,” says the minister. “He already did.”
With those words, Eberhart’s life changes once more, but to find out how, you’ll have to read the book or — if you live in the midcoast — hear Eberhart share from it on Thursday, June 25, at 7-8:30 p.m. at The Mustard Seed Bookstore, 74 Front St., Bath. I’ll be there with a bottle of water, just in case the Wicked Witch of the West shows up.