…AKA: Book Review of White Stallion of Lipizza by Marguerite Henry
You might think it is silly to compare life with the Hubs to a book about a boy and a dancing horse, but almost from the first moment I launched into the story, I knew. Hans, the baker boy, and my husband share a character quality few get to actually see and feel and interact with in real life. Often, we merely encounter these people in pages of great books. We read, we smile, we sigh, and we close the book. I am blessed with a far more personal, real relationship with a man who amazes me every single day. So what is it about Hans, the baker boy, and The Hubs that is so exceptional?
Hans had a dream. At first it was a tickle in his mind. Hans was a baker’s son, from a long line of bakers. He dutifully delivered baked goods in a rickety cart with his faithful old horse Rosy to the market in Vienna each morning. Every day he would try to make sure his cart was positioned on the street just right in order for him to see the beautiful Lipizzaners as the were led from their stables “to the great old Palace which housed the Spanish Court Riding School. Here they were carefully trained in the intricate and beautiful movements of classical ballet. And here each Sunday great crowds thronged the vast hall to see their unique performance.” Hans desperately wanted to see that performance! After weeks of scrimping and saving and scheming, he found a way to see it. Hans’ father agreed to drive the delivery cart for him early one Sunday morning, and Hans was the first in the queue outside the Palace. Just as he was about to enter, the unthinkable happened. Hans’ father had been in an accident, and Hans was needed at home. With his father’s injuries and mysterious illness, Hans had no time to see the stallions in the mornings or to even think about going to the performance. He found comfort in his late night hours at the library where he studied and dreamed about the Lipizzaners. One night Fräulein Morgen, the librarian who befriended Hans, gave him the greatest gift of all–an invitation to watch the Ballet of the Lipizzaners from the Imperial Box!
Hans’ parents hoped that finally seeing the performance would end Hans’ fascination with the Stallions. It had the opposite effect. Hans didn’t merely want to see the Stallions anymore. He wanted to be one with them as he saw in the ballet, rider and stallion in fluid perfection. He wanted to be a Riding Master in the Spanish Court Riding School. Hans Haupt, a baker’s boy, with no experience with horses, let alone horses with centuries old tradition and lineage, no training, no connections…a Riding Master?
Dreaming was the easy part. Hans faced rejection, loss, ridicule, back-breaking work, sacrifice, and defeat on his path to become a Riding Master. Despite all this, “he made a choice for his whole life…there would be no turning back now.” At times he wanted to give up, but something pushed him onward. Was it the glory of being a Riding Master? Of finally having that title? Or was it actually something else…something bigger?
On the last page of this wonderful book, Marguerite Henry wrote, “Hans examined the picture [of himself on the Stallion] carefully, slowly…He looked at the rider. The face did not show. It might have been himself, or anyone he knew, or no one. The rider had somehow extinguished himself in order to glorify the horse, to make him look as if he had performed of his own will–joyously, gaily. Now, at last, Hans understood the mystery.”
Change the names, change the country, swap bread for transmissions, horses for medicine, and this book is about The Hubs.
TH and Hans were very similar. Shop boys, from a long line of shop keepers, dreaming of a life outside a shop. And not just a different life–an almost untouchable life in an environment where they had no background, no training, and no connections. All they had was a dream and determination to give that dream feet. Anyone can dream. Seeing a dream into reality in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles takes a great amount of character. TH even had to take over the family business for a time when his own father got seriously ill–just like Hans. TH was in graduate school at the time, and his advisor actually told him that he should make his Dad understand that TH’s dream and studies should come first and to get someone else to help. TH is not a “dream and do at any cost” kinda guy, so he took time off to run the shop while his Dad recuperated. His advisor was not helpful after this, but I know TH did the right thing. What is the use in achieving a dream if you have to trample over people to attain it?
His big break came when he met Fräulein Morgen/Dr. W-C. We decided this would be our last cycle of applications, and I knew if “the powers that be” could just meet TH, they would see in him all the wonderful things I see in him. We prayed for that chance. He got it when he was interviewed by Dr. W-C.
On April 1, 2002, she gave him his personal invitation to the Ballet.
Four years later at the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society induction dinner, I got the chance to shake Dr. W-C’s hand. She didn’t know me from Eve, but I didn’t care. I wanted to shake the hand of the woman who gave my beloved the ticket to his dream. Just the fact that we were there at the AOA dinner meant she was not mistaken in her judgement of this brilliant, dedicated man. Thank you, God, for Dr. W-C!
Another six years has passed since that night. Five years of residency, one year of pediatric fellowship. What does TH see when he looks in the mirror? Doctor Hubs? Nah. You’d think after all he’d been through he would have me label all his pencils and monogram Dr. H into his underwear, but he isn’t like that. He introduces himself by his first name and never corrects anyone who calls him Mr. Hubs. As I have said before, he is humble in the best of ways. I think he is still in awe that he gets to go to work every day and do what he loves with his God-given talent.
She examined the picture carefully, slowly…She looked at the surgeon. His face did not show. It might have been her husband, or anyone she knew, or no one. The surgeon had somehow extinguished himself in order to glorify the Healer. Now, at last, she understood the mystery. This is the difference between a career and a calling.