The Number Fifty-two

I asked for a dougnut birthday “cake” this year and got a really delicious one! They refused to put all 52 candles on it, though.

I recently had a birthday and turned 52 years old. I was holding a notion in the back of my mind that this number had a certain significance in Judaism, so I looked it up. I was wrong; the special Jewish number I was thinking of was 54.

My disappointment turned to mild interest, however, when I saw a number of random things that are related to my current birthday integer which also had some sort of meaning in my own life. It turns out that:

  • A piano has 52 white keys. I took piano lessons for a couple of years as a kid. My first teacher was too stern and strict for a child such as myself, so they switched me over to a much nicer lady who had me playing songs I’d never even heard before, which wasn’t very motivating. I’m grateful to have had some basic music education, but I do wish it had been a little more fun.
  • 52 is the international direct dial phone code for calls to Mexico. I lived in Mexico City for over 20 years. My mom must have dialed that code hundreds of times!
  • It is also a significant number on the Mayan calendar — another Mexican connection.
  • There is a highway known as US 52 which runs from South Carolina to North Dakota. It passes through my birthplace in Indiana and is the main street of Joliet, Illinois, which I have visited as an adult, so I know I’ve been on that road.
  • Fifty-two American hostages were held in the Iran hostage crisis. This occurred largely during my year as a high school exchange student, so I didn’t follow it very closely, but I do remember it; it was a significant incident in my youth. Wonder where all those people are now – hostages and hostage-takers?
  • There are approximately 52 weeks in a year. So so far I have lived 52 cycles of 52.
  • 52 is the atomic number of the element tellurium. I wish I had a neat story about this, but, frankly, I got nuttin’.

So I guess one can just take a random number, or letter, or color or whatever and find ways it applies to one’s own life. Of course, that would only appeal to nerdy types like myself, who enjoy simply sitting and reading through a page in the dictionary or poring over the obscure place names on a page from an atlas. (Please tell me I am not alone in liking these things!)

I look forward to two years from now when, God willing, I’ll celebrate 54 years, which is a multiple of 18. According to “Eighteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew word chai which means life. It is a Jewish custom to give monetary gifts in increments of 18, thus symbolically blessing the recipient of the gift with a good long life.” Now if only my gift-giving loved ones were Jewish …


Mexico Retold

There's more to Mexico than meets the media