The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Famous Seamus May 6, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind,Pics — wingmother @ 12:04 pm
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Few can actually say they are in possession of a dead parrot. This is our beloved and late parakeet, Seamus.

His death was sudden and rather dramatic (and also cost $118 for a final attempt at reviving him with some sort of injected medical cocktail) and I found myself sadder than I would have thought at his passing. As I stood in the vet’s reception area, holding Seamus, who was neatly resting on a teal blue towel in a perfectly sized box, my thoughts turned to Elihu. Just as the woman behind the desk was handing me the brochure on how to talk to your children about the death of a beloved family pet, he spoke up. “Can we have him taxidermed?” he asked, without registering much emotion on his face. I recalled a little sign I’d once seen for a taxidermist’s shop up by the Greenfield hills and replied “Yes, I know a place.” I paused to consider the logistics. “We can go there now if you like”. He jumped up and clapped his hands in joy. With a disappointing audience of the somewhat humorless lady behind the counter, I threw the pamphlet over my shoulder in a ‘I give up’ sort of gesture, and we headed out the door with our ex-parrot in a box.

Note: Neither the mention of an ‘ex-parrot’ nor ‘how to put your budgie down’ is lost on my dearest Elihu. How much fun it is to have a child with that sort of twinkle in his eye, and that kind of material in his repertoire.

Famous Seamus the Taxidermed Parakeet


Retro Post: The Last Party

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Retro Post — wingmother @ 1:48 am

Not directly related to anything currently in my blog, this is a journal entry I just rediscovered which was written in December of 2005. Although I was well aware that the immediate future was almost completely unknown to me, I could never, ever have begun to imagine how differently my life would pan out in the years to come. Painful though it’s been, I can honestly say now that I’m grateful everything happened the way it did…

It’s two thirty in the morning, and our Christmas party is quietly dying down. I can hear conversations – Fareed is still holding court with a few straggling guitar students, but I sense things are finally wrapping up. This, our 19th party, was our mildest. It was nice to see some very dear friends for what might well be our final party here. Here in this house, in our town, our world. I can hear the laughter of young, long-haired girls I don’t know, and I see the lights of a car turn around in our driveway. I am tired, and I hope nobody takes us up on our ‘5 to 5’ thing. Last year Ray Quinn showed up at four. Hope not this year. Really, it peaked Elihu’s first party. That was the year I wore the ‘sound of music’ gown. Acres of dark green silk and a crinolyn skirt underneath to push it out all around. The year I was still big from having a baby. The year the upstairs bathroom was torn up and not functioning. That was the year everyone came. Oh well. This year we finally got the bathroom and the kitchen done and no one shows. I shouldn’t say that, those who showed were family, and that was good. It was a good night. I am tired, and I am ready to say goodbye to this place. I remember years when dozens of us sang carols around the piano – sometimes twice in a party – but tonite that was not to be. A measly half dozen of us sang. Although a thin crowd, it was nonetheless a nice moment. But so short. Ah well. Time to move on it seems. I’m too tired to keep this event going these days. Man, am I getting old?? What the hell??

I made gallons and gallons of cider and wine. The first pots never even got finished tonite. In the old days I could NEVER make enough. Ich. I’m a little sad. I am waiting for everyone to leave, and for my dear husband to come upstairs. I’m waiting for us to put our arms around each other and sigh. We’ll recount the night, although I have no voice left and can hardly speak. He’ll run circles around me energy wise, and chide me for being so pooped. Well, the triumph of the night was young Master Elihu. He looked a vision in his black velvet Jon jon and shiny patent leather shoes. He was so well behaved, yet I feel I neglected him most of the night. He is such a good little man, that son of ours. I was kind of disappointed that all the kids found the loose tinsel and globbed gobs of it all down one side of the tree. But a small price for the joy it created. I think I’m as ready as I can ever be to leave this home of mine. I believe things are winding down here. I am excited to live on first street in Dekalb. I am ready. I know we’ll need time there for it to feel like home, and right now I’m not sure if I’ll ever feel that way again, but I’m ready to try. I’m ready for something else. Something else. I just don’t know what.

The first two years of Elihu’s life we two did indeed enjoy this place. Fareed was gone most of the time, so it was the two of us who did the exploring. We rode the neighborhood on my bike, we walked everywhere, we browsed the Salvation Army store and bought trinkets. I can recall so many little delights; an old fiber optic lamp that Elihu insisted on taking apart, a little toy piano that played in tune. We discovered many odd and unexpected objects which added interest to our long days together. We went to the beach too. We did this all. Sadly for me, Elihu never liked the beach, so the very thing that we might have actually enjoyed the most – had he been a kid without achromatopsia – was in fact the thing he most resisted. Once, as we walked hand in hand along the water he said to me “this is like walking in a nightmare”. That gave me a new insight into his world. I’d made it my life’s priority to always live as close to water as possible, now here was my kid just hating it. God damn it. At least I’d made sure we got to the beach a couple of times. I had so hoped my children would grow up walking distance from water. Now the water will be a river in our back yard. Oh Elihu, when you read this will you have grown up in Dekalb, never to have known what it is to live steps from the beach?? It’s so close, it could have been our life, but now it seems it’s not to be. Why?? I must remember that I am tired of living in a fishbowl of a house, of knowing that in my yard and garden I am always being seen by someone. If it weren’t for that silly monolith of a condo building across the alley it might be better, but I can see by the next warm season there’ll be even less privacy in our yard.

It will probably take us a good year to really feel ok in our new home, but I do think the change will come. I am sad, and I just want to get this over with. If we’re to have our second child, I need to be in my new home when she comes (Sarah’s still on the roof waiting…) If we’re going to do this, I need to get into my new home now. I know this is selfish and idealistic, but I feel I must make my new home soon.

North First Street. Or is it 1st? Does one spell out a numbered street? Hmm. I do so love our address: 520 Judson. It’s a very handsome address. So was 1122 Lunt. Hell, Orrington Lunt and Philo Judson were pals and created the first plats of the area. See? I know that kind of shit about my hood. Who the hell made the first plat of Dekalb? Who fucking cares? I don’t… yet. I’ll try.

I hear the hard soles of Fareed’s shoes walking the house as he turns off lights and amps. Good man. Yes, he’s a good man. It’s almost three now. I’ve expressed what’s been brewing inside, and what’s been underneath the whole night for me. Here he comes. Please come upstairs, my love. I want to go to bed. I am so tired, and my head hurts. And you know what? I really don’t want to have another Christmas party. Nineteen of em is enough. May our 20th find us cozy in our home by the woods, just us and a few dear friends gathered in love. God willing.


My Turn Soon

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 12:06 am

My birthday comes nine days after my son’s. While I was technically in my thirties when I had him, for all intents and purposes I was forty. So it’s easy math. I’m forty years older than he. (Good thing, because I’m easily thrown off by simple computations. This keeps things tidy.)

I share my day, May 7th, with Tchaikovsky and Brahms. While my ex was never sentimental about his own birthday (he shares his with Mozart), I am always rather fond of mine, and have always chosen my movements through the day with gentle consideration. When I was in my teens I would visit a lily of the valley patch by the banks of a neighboring canal, and just sit there, in quiet. I have always set time aside on each birthday to be alone in nature of some form. I wrote a song for myself when I turned 17, and it’s become something of a tradition that I play it for myself on that day. It’s a little melancholic thing that expresses a nostalgia for things lost and almost lost, a mood that I often found myself in for many years of my early adulthood. Its sound brings me back to the memories of that home, how the afternoon sun would throw the trees’ shadows on the stucco wall of the piano room, the sound of the cars rumbling over the canal bridge as I sat alone in the woods…

I can hardly recount the things I’ve done on my birthdays past. I can recall only a few out of so many. One I do remember was my 6th birthday. And I remember it because my mother made pink lemonade ice cream cake. I wonder if Elihu might possibly remember a childhood birthday decades hence for some such detail. I remember my thirtieth – a nice gathering of both my day job friends and my musician friends. I wore a serpent bracelet around my upper arm. I remember thinking at the time that I was chubby and unattractive. Sheesh. Couldn’t wind that snake around my arm these days.

Elihu suggested the family go to the Wishing Well for my birthday dinner. I was pleased with this; it’s a place that hearkens back to a pre-expressway America, with a silver-haired waitstaff, a floor of sound-muffling carpet and a sense of unrushed elegance in the room. I’m glad he made this lovely suggestion, for I have no real desire to go anywhere, to eat anything, to do anything special. My life is absent of much heartfelt and zealous desire these days, rather my energy it turned towards my list of things to learn and make here on my homestead. While these goals do represent a desire of sorts, they don’t have the same inherent element of excitement and energy as say, performing might have. I’ve been trying to think of something that I might enjoy experiencing on my birthday, but so far nothing much moves me. I’d like to take a walk in the woods and have some time alone. I’d really love to have a hundred dollars and a couple of hours to browse through some pretty clothes in a store. Neither is an option, so I will try to accept the day as it presents itself. Accepting what you’ve got is really all you can do.

I always consider a birthday to be as much the mother’s as the child’s. And for that reason I’m glad to be living here next to my own mother. It’s nice to be here for ‘her’ day too. I just wish we weren’t such a financial burden on her; she’s the only one in the family with a real job. She’s pulling us all along, and in fact, it will be she who picks up the hefty Wishing Well tab if we go. I so hope having her daughter and grandson next door makes up for it in some way. Most years on my birthday I have mom recount the story of my birth. It was a barbaric time in 1963 as far as labor and delivery went. They actually strapped her wrists to the gurney as she labored. No comfort was given, no movement allowed, no nothing. I can hardly believe it. I’m guessing that folks might even have been smoking in her presence… My mother was rather progressive for a woman in the midst of a culture that embraced invasive birthing techniques and encouraged drug-assisted births. She was adamant about having a natural birth, and in this atmosphere, with no advocate on her side, she stayed her course. (BTW – what the hell is natural about being strapped down as you deliver your child or having your entire pubic area shaved before you give birth?) I like to have her recount it, because it’s my way of affirming that this day also belongs to her. Elihu himself, on his own birthday one week ago, said “happy birthday to US, mommy”. He knows. Ok. I’m on deck…