He was born on December 25th. It was the happiest day of single-mother Liberty Walton's life. But the ache in her bones told her it would be easy for his birth to be overshadowed, what with sharing a birthday with Jesus and all. She knew how the town loved to do Christmas. So she willed herself to give him an inimitable name, something to level the field a bit. His birth announcement in the local paper read
Onceupona Time Walton, 7lbs 12 oz, 19 inches
The truth is Liberty Walton could've named that boy Judas and the folks of Delight (pronounced Dee-lite) would've loved him just the same. The reason is every breathing soul in that town adored Liberty, she was native, 'a born and raised delight' as they say. In many ways the girl and the town grew up together. Liberty's parents were both beloved fixtures, her mother the school superintendent for years and her father the founding pastor of the Congregational church. Upon graduation from high school, Liberty received a prestigious scholarship to an Ivy League school. Delight was agog.
But something happened that first spring semester. Of course folks knew what happened, but they never really knew what happened. Liberty came home for the summer showing signs of life in her belly. The town all tiptoed around for awhile, trying to give her some space. Then one July Sunday morning, just prior to the benediction, Liberty stood before her father's congregation, hands resting on her abdomen, and said 'I'm so, so sorry. Please, please forgive me.' Jess McCandles, the church's tenured crosspatch, rose to his feet, wiped his eyes, and declared 'you'll always be a delight to us, Liberty Walton, you and that baby.' A hearty amen followed and from then on, as they say, 'that was that.' Delight was agog once more.
Per Liberty's request, folks took to calling her boy by his first and middle names, running them together sorta like you'd expect - Onceuponatime. Liberty would read to him at bedtime from a book of fairy tales, legends and myths, always beginning with that magic phrase - 'Once upon a time.' She would say those four words, then pause and look deep in her firstborn's life. This quotidian ritual was such that Liberty's son soon began to associate one thing with another; in other words, he began, even at an early age, to know why he was here.