R.I.P. Felix

I’m so sad, but I can’t cry. We’ve lost so many animals here at the Hillhouse, and now we’ve just lost another. It’s part and parcel of life here with the wilderness just steps beyond our door. Elihu takes it in stride, but this morning my heart is unusually heavy with the loss of our dear little Bantam Silkie Rooster, Felix. I suppose when we finally do lose our beloved Molly one day, then I will cry, but for now I’m merely beset with yet another loss of a creature I’d grown to know and love, yet another irretrievable event out of my control here on our small farm, yet another inevitable tiny heartache.

I think back on a summer morning last year when we awoke to find all sixteen of our young chicks – finally on the doorstep of adulthood – mangled and dead on the floor of their brooder pen. My fault, I knew. I’d not secured the wire over the window very well, and it was an easy entrance for some creature. A creature who did not even eat his spoils. That broke Elihu’s heart more than the deaths themselves. It’s much easier to accept a death when you know it served to feed another needy stomach on the planet. But to see death for no gain – that’s a true heartbreaker.

I’m wrestling with myself this morning. Did I in fact secure the barrier plank against the coop last night?? Did I? It had been knocked over this morning, and that was my first warning something was amiss. Felix, as he’d been rather picked on by the bigger birds, had taken to spending nights under the coop rather than in it, and so I’d made sure to close the perimeter of it, leaving but one entrance point which he used like clockwork to let himself in each evening. In the morning, my routine was to kick his plank down, opening up his ‘door’ and wait for him to emerge, thereby giving him a head start over his larger cousins upstairs. But did I close him in last night? Had I perhaps forgotten? Or was there a highly motivated creature here last night who’d simply knocked the plank down himself? I’m pretty sure it was the latter, but since I can’t be sure my mind goes tormentingly round and round.

In the end, there is nothing I can do so I must let it go. I make one more hopeful look around the property, waiting for that familiar lift my heart always feels when I first see the strutting of his poofy little legs and goofy little silhouette. He is here, he is there, he has always been somewhere about, and to come upon him all at once is always a joy – a tiny bright spot in one’s day. One cannot look upon a silkie and not smile. But his was a lonely life – the only one of his miniature kind, always skirting the edges of the main flock lest his tail feathers be plucked to bleeding by the other birds as they had been many times before. And as his feathers are fluffy rather than tightly zipped up as most birds’ are, he’s unable to fly, making him an easier target still. The irony to me is blunt: Elihu and I had only yesterday decided we’d set out to find him two hens this week, and they were to be Gretchen and Gertrude. It gave us peace to know that soon our dearest little Felix would not be alone, and his way in the world might be lighter.

Well, Felix is no longer in this world, and I’m sure his way is indeed much lighter today. Some other forest creature has satisfied a long empty belly, and Felix’s cares are all ceased. Rest in peace, little rooster. Thanks for the joy you brought us. We’ll miss you.

Post Script: A “bantam” is a miniature breed of chicken, standing about eight inches tall. Silkies have fluffy white feathers – even on their feet! – and dark purple skin with blue combs. They really are pretty adorable. And they’re very soft to the touch. Here is what our Felix looked like:


Bad Bug

Was really sick yesterday. Really sick. Good timing, though. I’d just finished organizing and cleaning out the basement the night before. I’m a tad embarrassed to admit that after I was finished, as a reward for my dozens of hours at the thankless and grueling challenge, I took myself to the movies. To see ‘Wanderlust’ of all things. I was in the mood for some white bread, some frivolity. Nothing else that was playing appealed. I knew that it wouldn’t be worth the ticket price and that I’d probably regret it halfway through. But in fact, having gone with the assumption that the script would be kinda lame and it would undoubtedly pander to the lowest common denominator (and learning later that my assumption for the most part was true), I was in the end happily surprised if, for no other reason, than to see Alan Alda and Linda Lavin (peers, remember the 70s sitcom ‘Alice’?). I also dug a scene in which the very pretty Paul Rudd has a pep talk with himself in a mirror – something I’m guessing was probably him just blowing. It was refreshing to see some improv make it into a movie. The scene even made me actually laugh out loud. Something I realized – mid laugh – that I hadn’t done in a long time. Thanks Paul.

Got home, into bed and realized I wasn’t right. I’d been battling a persistent, pill-resistant headache for hours and was now getting flushed. I considered anaphylactic attack but no, it wasn’t a match, so I just went to sleep hoping it would right itself overnight. I awoke in the middle of the night with a miserable nausea. I don’t like discomfort – who does? – but I’ve always cited nausea and sore throats the worst. I don’t know why – but a sick gut has always trumped everything else. And I’ve broken my neck as well as several other bones so I do have something to compare it to (oh, yeah, and childbirth too). So what to do? Pepto seemed the only proactive thing. I downed some and waited. Discomfort grabbed me no matter what position I took; all I could do was wait for the inevitable. And it came. Throughout the next twelve hours my system rid itself of everything and then some. My diaphragm wrung itself like a mad sponge until my eyes were bloodshot, my head wet with sweat, and my temples pounding with headache.

This was also the day that my son was coming home, and he and Fareed were at the train station several towns away needing to be picked up. I could hardly move much less get in a car and drive. To make things worse, Elihu had left his precious dark glasses in Chicago and was without any protection. I was too out of it to dwell on it. I took the glass half full attitude. It would be really hard for him to manage being out in the world nearly blind, but it might well be a good, hard lesson for him – of how all-important his glasses are and of how important it is to always, always make sure to have them. I let this one go, and had to let Fareed figure the rest out himself. It cost him some change (the taxi alone from town was $27, to say nothing of the bus tickets here from the Amtrak station) but in the end it was ok.

Shortly after they got in (or maybe a week later, I was out of it and couldn’t tell) I smelled food cooking in the kitchen and pulled a pillow over my head to block it out. As I felt then, it smelled simply atrocious. But my next thought was one of comfort, of relief. Dare I say it? I was relieved that my ‘husband’ and son were home. The smell of food being cooked in my home said love, it said caring, it said ‘don’t worry, I got this one’… I know it isn’t logical given the reality of the situation, but our tiny house felt more like a home with Fareed there. With someone other than me keeping it together. I love my life here with Elihu, but man, when someone else is here it kinda highlights how lonely it can be sometimes.

I’m glad that my body still ached with flu when my brother came to pick Fareed up and drive him to the airport late last night. It softened the mood. The reality. How seventh grade girl of me is this? – it took the edge off knowing that this was the last time Fareed and I would be together as ‘legal’ spouses. The deal closes on March 7th, so technically, we’re still a ‘we’ til then. We hugged, and then I stood in the open door a moment watching him and Andrew walk off into the darkness. He turned around and nodded goodbye.

Fareed is back in his routine, Elihu is back in school, I am well. And my basement is both organized and clean. I mean clean. Not only do I now know where everything is, but also there is no more grunge on the floor, no more damp, decomposing old boxes, mouse turds or soggy piles of pink insulation laying about. The whole place is well-lit and inviting. I even have a work space for my new sewing machine! My goodness, seems yet another metaphor of transition. Fits and starts is this life’s progress, and most gratefully I’m feeling fit to start it all over yet again.

Stuff and More Stuff

I’d thought the battle was won. But no. I am still overrun with stuff.

Elihu is in Dekalb with his father this week for winter break, and so I’ve turned once again to the job of housecleaning. Taking stock, assessing my mess. How is it, I wonder, in a life so simple, that I still have so much goddam stuff? I have no idea.

While I made a good start putting my house in some kind of order this past fall, I realized that many boxes were still unpacked from my moving here three years ago. Having recently helped some friends in their own unpacking and mess assessing, I thought it finally time to see what lay in those yet-unpacked boxes. In my excavation I find the mice have long beat me to it. Cardboard is no barrier, nor are plastic bags, for the relentless onslaught of diligent rodents. I have revisited many artifacts of my past tonight, most of which have been rendered garbage due to my tiny roommates. Once again, I renew my campaign to take back my home.

I’m completely overwhelmed. I find bags of boys clothes, given to us by kind friends whose own sons are a size ahead of Elihu, all needing to be sorted through. I find hastily stashed remnants of holiday decorations, party favors, wrapping paper and craft items – all mangled and tossed together in plastic tubs, my intention having been to tend to them one day. All of the clothing has become a tangled mess, seasons and sizes have long lost their proper places. Winter hats we’ve meant to wear but never have, single gloves which I’ve kept in hopes of finding their lost mates – all these things and more co-mingle in large plastic bins awaiting some serious inventory-taking.

I only wish it were but a day’s job. This may take me all week. It took me a while to get going tonight as I didn’t quite know how to begin. There’s just so much crap. I did finally get into a groove, and for the most part it was easy to decide what should stay and what should go. But then things got a little trickier for me as I began to uncover pieces that still hold meaning for me. Of all the many things I own, I have just a few favorite things. I find most destroyed by mice. A scarf brings me back to a day long ago when Fareed and I spent an afternoon Christmas shopping at Marshall Field’s. I’d picked up the scarf and wrapped it around my neck, asking him how I looked. “Like a princess” he’d said. Although the few other scarves I’d saved lay undisturbed, my princess scarf had been pulled apart and made into a nest. It was hopeless. There was no saving it. I wonder, if Fareed were still in my life, would I have been so moved, so saddened to find it destroyed? I have also kept a blouse – too small for me to wear these days – only because he’d once said how lovely I’d looked in it. Is not the memory alone enough? In spite of my desire to live a simpler life, free of things I no longer use, I find myself clinging to things as if I could bring my past back and keep it alive through the physical evidence. I’m hard-pressed to take the advice I often give to others; the thing is not the memory. Let it go. So I tell others. Can I let it go? I toss the scarf into a pile of ruined garments. I tell myself if I write about it; if I can broaden the witness to my memory, it will help me to say goodbye. I just wish I could do it with more conviction.

My favorite shoes were long lost – discovered last fall when I first realized how bad the mouse problem had become. I’m still not entirely over that. So much for detachment. So much for my zen country life. As I continue my clean up, I find an old pair of platform boots I’d worn for many a gig – again totally dissected by mice. That’s ok. I can’t seem myself as a fifty year old woman wearing those again. Out they go. In fact, out go most of the shoes and boots I’d saved.

Out go so many, many things. I wonder if the mice might not be a gift after all; they are certainly forcing me to lighten my load. I think of the people who live in Japan, whole families in tiny apartments – without the benefit of storage lockers. I think of most of the people of this earth, living free of the burden of stuff. The way of stuff is dangerous. One doesn’t even need to watch an episode of “Buried Alive” to know the power stuff can have over us. I remind myself that I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Lord knows I let go of a whole lot of stuff when I left Dekalb. There was no way I could have done it alone – so I’d hired someone to conduct an estate sale. I marveled over the way in which the women had displayed the articles it had taken me two decades to acquire, making each display as compelling as any upscale vintage boutique. I half joked that it all looked so good I’d like to buy it myself! (Having enjoyed the hobby of grazing through some pretty fine estate sales for several years I’d ended up with some beautiful mid-century finds.) I was in such a daze as I planned my escape from Dekalb that I’d simply had to detach myself emotionally, with my only goal to free myself and start over fresh. Knowing that my things had found happy new owners made it a bit easier. That gave me consolation.

I need to complete the job I started three years ago. My divorce will be final in a few weeks; a thorough cleanup seems fitting. I had to slog through a lot of crap to complete the divorce, and it seems there’s just a bit more slogging to be done…

A Better Bird

Elihu and Molly

After agreeing that we would put Molly down if she did not get better – and admitting to ourselves that we had little hope she would get any better at all – I am so absolutely pleased to report that our beloved hen is indeed much, much better today. And I’ve gained some skill the past few days in administering meds to a chicken. I know that her crop is on her right side – I know to avoid her trachea, I know how to hold her, pry open her beak and get the stuff in the right channel. At first it was tricky – not so much because of her non-cooperation, because in fact she, being quite sick, hardly protested. It was because of my lack of skill. I’ve given pills to cats before – and in the end, that’s probably harder, but just not knowing if I was getting it down the right pipe with Molly had me second guessing my technique. Guess I did something right because today Molly was not only walking, but she was drinking and eating on her own – and God bless her, she even pooped! And we all know you can’t leave the hospital til you have a bowel movement. Right?

I was further heartened to see she’d hopped down from her bench and had walked into the kitchen, where she pecked occasionally at bits of dirt on the floor. I poured some of her fancy, nutritive -rich, vet-bought feed on the floor in front of her and was relieved to see her eat some of it. Not much, but some. Although better, her hind end is still bare and rather plump, not at all what it should be. But I continue to massage it often, encouraging things within to keep moving as they should. Not sure if she’s egg bound or not. No conclusive info to be gleaned from the internet. Nor the vet. Not without an xray, at any rate. (And that aint happenin.) Just to be clear, she’s gone from a bird who went hours without any discernible movement to a bird making quick and darting, dare I say bird-like movements. Which is good news for a bird.

So after a happy Valentine’s day in which Elihu gave his classmates a drawing of a swan (he didn’t want to draw a dove, it was too obvious a choice) and gave each a highly polished and unique gemstone as a lasting token of his friendship, we are going to retire happily, knowing our beloved white hen sleeps just one room away, very much on the mend.

Sick Bird

I used to think that people who brought their chickens to the vet were ridiculous. Come on, taking a hen to the vet? How silly. I’m much more practical and cooler-headed about my birds. Sure sometimes they get sick – a little wheeze or some diarrhea now and then, but they’ll sort it out on their own eventually. After all, they’re farm animals – they live outside. They’re tough. They’ll be fine. I would never take my chicken to the vet – what a crazy waste of money! That sort of thing was for naive, soft-hearted urbanites who merely kept a trio of layers in their back yard with names like Daisy or Myrtle. Not for real country folk like us. (You do know where this is going, don’t you?)

Yes, last night I had to change my tune, eat my words and become humble. One of our hens was truly sick. The very fact that I could easily catch her told me how unwell she was. She was our eldest hen – the chicken who’d started it all. The one we bought as a fuzzy, yellow chick at Tractor Supply one Easter season, the one who bore most of the flock we have today, the one to have survived foxes, raccoons, fishers, mink, hawks. The one who’d seen some thirty coop mates disappear over the past three years to unseen predators, plucked one by one from the flock, or mangled en-masse in a dead of night attack. She had survived it all. While we’ve had many birds casually named things like ‘Keithie One’ or ‘Keithie Two’ (hens named for Elihu’s friend who’d found the eggs they hatched from) or ‘Claras One and Two’ (seems a shame to lose a perfectly fine name just because we lost a hen) this hen was our dear Molly. Our first hen, our only white hen. Our one and only Molly. We had to do something.

When she made no effort to run or even struggle, I knew she was bad off. I’d noticed that in the past week she no longer roosted at night, but stayed on the ground of the coop. She’d lost all the feathers on her butt too – but I’d chalked both changes up to a new, broody sort of behavior. Early spring, perhaps? A motherly mood? Now more serious problems came to mind – did I have an egg-bound hen? I turned to google, and in a few minutes had Molly bathing in a warm sitz bath in the kitchen sink. Admittedly, I’m not as frontier bad-ass as I’d like to think; it took a moment to get into the new mindset needed in order to massage my hen’s bald and bulging ass end. I knew that soon an oiled up finger might need to be inserted into her rear to check for a stuck egg. I just wasn’t up to it yet. So I massaged, felt around for any clues under the skin. I know I wasn’t patient enough with her bath and massage – I was so eager just to get her system moving – to expel whatever was blocking her up – I ended the massage after barely ten minutes, and after making a few more google searches I chose instead to inject some olive oil down her throat to lube her up. I’d added some Epsom salts in order to improve upon the laxative properties of the oil – but she puked it up instead. I later learned Epsom salts can make you nauseous. Oh poor Molly, I wasn’t providing any benefit to her, and I was now seriously concerned about her getting worse.

One half hour later, there I was, walking into the local animal hospital with a hen in my arms – instantly dropping a cool $55 just walking through the door. I justified my visit by considering it to be a mini class in hen health. I’d I thought I’d keep it to that; I was there to learn what ailed her and how I could treat it on my own – the way a real, able-bodied chicken farmer should. But my objective was quickly forgotten in the talk of fecal tests, parasites, antibiotics and dietary supplements. Before I knew it my mother was coming to our aid, visiting us at the vet’s, checkbook in hand. I could afford to walk in, but I couldn’t afford to walk out. Tests cost money, medicine costs money. And apparently, Molly needed some high tech help. Although the vet was able to massage her in a more productive way than I (the gassy smell in the room was good evidence) poor Molly’s system was fairly compromised by this point and needed assistance. The damage? $260. Hmm, let’s see, that means it ended up costing $52 a pound to mend her. Although mom knows my financial situation – that is to say she won’t be holding me to pay her back that huge sum – it’s still kinda of a bummer to know that in the end, we couldn’t do it old-school, on our own. We needed help. Phooey.

Plus it does kind of cast a shadow on the prospect of Eggs of Hope appearing to make a profit. I guess that’s kinda in the tank now anyhow. In the beginning, we did actually make some money. Not much, but some. That was then… Three years ago, when we started out, I’d hoped to keep the operation simple, organic, cheap. The girls would forage all day, reducing the need to buy feed. They lived in the garage at first (this was a disaster – chickens poop quite a lot, and they create dust, dander, just plain a dirty mess…) Live and learn. Fareed popped twelve dollars for a retired international shipping container for their coop – which ended up being, in Elihu’s words – a ‘death capsule’. A year later and a little help from my dad and we had a professionally made coop. But when the workers left us with our brand-new, empty coop, we still needed more stuff. A little extra carpentry for roosts and nesting boxes. Here began my learning process as I started to use my saws, my crude assembly of tools and salvaged lumber. But as with anything in life, there’s more to everything than one fully appreciates in the beginning. I ended up throwing in the towel this past fall, when my roosting bars finally fell under the jostling of twenty birds. For the time being we’re using tree branches stretched across the rungs of a couple dilapidated ladders for roosting bars. And the nesting boxes I made (I’m actually kinda proud of these) still sit on the floor of the coop – rather than a few feet up and on the wall as they should be. The fence which once (well, almost once) enclosed them is now in tatters, and I can’t keep a one of them inside. All in all it’s a sketchy, hillbillyish setup at the moment. But this year, goddamit, I will finally get it all under control.

There’s something to be learned in every new endeavor. And I’ve learned a lot these past three years. Ultimately what I take away from my experience thus far is that having chickens – doing it right, that is – actually does take some organization, infrastructure and yes, money. And sometimes even a trip to the vet.

A Post-Script:  Molly seems a tad better now. At this writing, some twenty-four hours after her trip to the vet, she’s begun to drink water on her own and looks a bit less stressed than she did before.

Music Box Night

Although the moon is a day or two on the wane, it still fills the living room with light. I take one final look at the moon and hills beyond from out of our big picture window then turn to head back to my room. I’m not quite ready for sleep, yet I’m a bit too weary to read. I’m kind of in between. So is Elihu. It’s way past ten and he can’t sleep. I hear the music box going – one he recently discovered in my dresser drawer. I told him I had gone to sleep by it when I was his age, and he asked if he could have it in his room. Hearing the melody sends me back to a strange haunting of a feeling – a half-dream of a time that seems from some different life altogether. I’m happy to know he is listening to the same tune that I did when I was little. He may not be so very little anymore, but he’s still little enough. To call me Mommy, to climb in my lap, to find a music box the right sort of comfort to help him to sleep.

I hear the melody for a second time. And a third, a fourth. I think I’ll get into bed now. Oh I hope the little music box will work for us tonite. The melody teeters on the edge of it’s final unwinding and – it stops. Good. That’s all for now. See you in the morning.

Too Much

Is it me, or is time flying by faster than ever? Already over a month into the new year and there’s so much that I haven’t gotten to yet. Just too much to do and not enough time. It helps me to look back over past to-do lists in order to confirm that yes, I actually have accomplished some things, however in the ‘now’, as I sit here at my desk this very moment, stopped in the face of a daunting list of goals, it hardly seems I’ve completed one silly thing.

There’s no point to my listing all the many projects, tasks and sub-tasks; we all have our lists. It just seems that I seldom come to a place of completion. The list beckons me forward unendingly, and all the zen wisdom in the world about living in the now is just so much meaningless crap. Yeah, yeah, I know all we have is the now, I get it, but come on, just look at this list!! I mean, come on!

Are most of us like this? My ex used to tell me that my biggest problem in getting things done were all the conditions I put upon a situation. As in I must get A done in order to do B, making B ever elusive as long as A was at a standstill. I think he was correct to a degree, but truly, many tasks are linear, a process in which certain things must be done first. And so when A aint happening, B seems completely out of reach.

Often during my day I’ll feel a sense of ill-ease just hovering about me. In order to quash the sensation, I’ll try to identify just what the hell this vague nagging is about. The best I can come away with is that I feel I have real work to do which I can’t seem to get to because of all the life crap: the forms to be filled out, the papers to be filed, the papers to be retrieved, copied, faxed, notarized. Alright already!! Please, world, just leave me alone so I can teach, write, learn, enjoy friendships… please leave me alone so that I can live. Please, life, don’t require me to spend several hours of each day just waiting on hold, sending emails, filling out forms. And don’t get me started on laundry. Seriously, with housework added on to the pile, I’m amazed any one of us gets anything done. Really.

Lest I appear on an insane pursuit of the unrealistic goal of finding some peace with my life as it is, I would like to recount something that happened to me many years ago that proves a sense of satisfaction is not entirely elusive and can actually be achieved. I once experienced a moment of perfection. Not a meditative moment in which I finally felt what it was to be one with all, not a cosmic moment in which I existed only in the now – but rather a full-on, in-the-flesh, earth-bound moment. I remember sitting in my little Toyota Corolla, facing the brick wall of the dry cleaners in my beloved Rogers Park neighborhood. I just sat there for a moment.  I was feeling good. Wow. I realized I was completely happy. I was in love, I was healthy, I was picking up beautiful clothes that had been cleaned for me, I lived on the lake in a gorgeous apartment, I had two cats I loved, parents I loved, a career I loved, a car I loved. In that glorious moment, I felt on top of the world. And the thing was – the feeling lasted. It wasn’t just a one moment in time; it was simply a moment in which I paused to acknowledge it, to feel it fully. In fact, I rode the wave of that good feeling for several years. I had it good, and I knew it; I felt it, I lived it. The tasks before me were challenging but always surmountable, inspiring, educational. I enjoyed all that life brought to me. I did the things I set out to accomplish. I was doing things, getting things done. And I loved my life.

So. I do know, from experience, that there is an earthly, finite point at which things can finally come together. I think there should be a point at which one can simply feel that all is well – I don’t think it’s unrealistic. And because I’ve known it before, I’m keenly on the watch for it again. It will happen. For those who would remind me that ‘all we have is right now’ I would add sincerely that for the most part I do enjoy the process. I do enjoy most of the ‘right nows‘. Just this one not so much. But I’m not daunted. Please friends, let’s not any of us be daunted. Pain in the ass though it may be, we can do this life thing!

Yes, I know. Every journey begins with a single step. So today I think I’ll go for a good, long walk…

Perfect Night

It’s been such a lovely night. After spending some time with our flock, holding our dear goose Max and crooning softly to him our affection (this is such a rare pleasure!), we headed inside. Oh how I love the freedom of a family of two. For supper we each had as much artichoke as we cared for. I then had some avocado while Elihu finished off some leftover chicken. I enjoyed a glass of wine, he a glass of seltzer water, and that was our dinner. So simple, so free-form. Pure delight.

Elihu watched some of Jon Stewart and then the Colbert Report with me as I did the dishes. I do get a little tired trying to catch him up on the jokes and the meanings behind it all – even the nuances of the commercials need explanation. He trusts me when I say I’ll explain it later. I do my best on the fly and will do my best to flesh it out later. He does get a fair amount, and if nothing else the delivery is funny enough to amuse him. After I finish the dishes, I wash the eggs we’d just collected. Finally, Shirley Nelson, our Aruacana, has laid an egg. Two, in fact. They are long and narrow, and green. This makes us happy. We put one in with the rest in the refrigerator and we save one for his collection.

Then we head to his desk for homework. Maybe it should’ve been done earlier, but we’ve had such a nice, low-key afternoon it’s worth it. Elihu had made a fort of pillows while I sat on the couch beside him, reading. (When he wasn’t pummeling me with pillows, that is.)

Homework doesn’t take long. I’ve poured the bath, now all he needs is to get in. I sit for a moment in my chair, trusty old G4 on my lap, making a short post while he hums to himself in the bathtub, alternating his melody from above to below the surface of the water. Elihu enjoys a moment to himself and so do I. Soon enough we’ll be side by side, finishing Gulliver’s Travels. We’ll turn off the light, chat for a bit, then I’ll fall asleep first. I’ll wake a half hour or so later to find him breathing the heavy breath of sleep. Then I’ll tiptoe back to my room where I’ll do some reading of my own.

This is what our perfect night looks like.


Waldorf and Wrenches

Today was simply magical. Elihu and I have received some news that has transformed our lives. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write about for months now. It’s been a concern of ours for several years, yet as with so many other aspects of life, even something so important eventually becomes just another item on the list and it passes easily without being mentioned. This subject? School.

While Elihu does indeed enjoy school for the most part and does well academically, it’s never been a terribly easy place for him to exist. It’s a tricky environment for an achromat for whom florescent lights are fatiguing and color coding means nothing. Kinda tricky for a nature boy who can’t even pretend to share an interest with his classmates in video games and pop culture. Public school, even a ‘blue ribbon award winning’ school as Greenfield Elementary is, is just plain kinda tricky for my son. Never been a natural fit. And so, since the beginning of first grade, I’ve had my eye on the local Waldorf School as an option. As it takes a lot of money to attend – as in my entire annual household income – I’d essentially put it out of my mind. Besides, the Waldorf moms seemed to me like ‘greener-than-thou’ types in their moisture-wicking, high-end yoga wear and fair trade alpaca ski hats who could actually afford the luxury of eating all organic food. Not my peers. Just a greener version of the new-moneyed residents of my rural hamlet. It had already taken me several years to feel remotely comfortable with that lot; I didn’t have the oomph to learn a new parent scene. So there it lay. But each year, I’d sense the stress that lay just beneath the surface of a happy school experience. Call it a mother’s intuition; I’ve just always known that something was amiss. I’d watch my son’s school bus disappear around the corner and say a quiet prayer of thanks to all those who’d watch over him through the day, adding my hopes that today he’d finally feel he belonged there.

This afternoon we learned that Waldorf will have him if he chooses. I’m over the moon today! There is no waiting list, the teacher herself is thumbs up, the admissions director is on board! Yay! There’s room at the inn! Some people wait years for a space in a Waldorf School. Few people actually even have a Waldorf School in their area. We do! And Elihu is welcome there! I don’t know how we’ll pay for it yet – I just plain don’t. But it will happen. I know this. I do. The school can offer some tuition assistance, but we’ll have to do our part too. Sadly, I don’t hope for any help at all from Elihu’s paternal grandparents; they’ve essentially disowned us. And my folks aren’t really able either. Nor am I. But still, In fact, if we were to find the money right now, he could start tomorrow. So now the hunt for tuition begins. Elihu and I have had the conversation about sponsors many times before (each time after a tearful, post-school episode in which he begs me to get him into Waldorf) and so today I’ve penned a few letters which I’m going to send out to a short list of candidates. I’ll make a plea or two on Facebook, and indeed, hope readers will consider this too a call for help. If anyone would like to help us reach our current goal of twenty-seven hundred dollars for this second semester, oh how grateful we’d be. There it is. Elihu is at the doorstep of a whole new life. He and I are thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. I will sleep with a new peace tonight.

There was also another addition to the day’s unexpected magic… As I pulled into the inner portion of our long driveway today, I saw several large boxes leaning against the old, broken gate. Maximus, our goose, has lately taken to pursuing our visitors rather aggressively, and while he hasn’t actually attacked anyone (violently, that is) he has become something of a deterrent to folks getting out of their cars. Such was the case with the UPS guy, apparently, for the gate is a good hundred yards from the house. My son and piano student got out and picked up the boxes to walk them in on foot. I drove behind, in absolute amazement. Huh? Seriously, what could these packages be? Who on earth were they from?

Guess what the boxes contained? Tools! Really – I mean whole sets of tools. Screwdriver bits, drill bits, ratchet wrenches, socket wrenches, adjustable wrenches, friggin pipe wrenches – screwdrivers, pliers, allen wrenches – both standard and metric yet! An insanely complete set of tools – many of which I honestly cannot see a future use for – but many of which I can. I had only just this past weekend given Elihu his first proper lesson in drilling. I’d brought some scrap in from the garage and assembled screws, drill bits and such on the kitchen floor for him to begin experimenting. The dollar store screwdriver bits were chewed up and didn’t grab too well for drilling, making the lesson a bit less inspiring. (After a time it didn’t really matter; he bored of the exercise and ended up fashioning a rotor blade of cardstock and turning the drill into a propeller. Ultimately, he is ever about things that fly.) It was the most astonishing thing. My student thought it was funny – and told me I had to mention on my blog how I’d said “OMFG” over and over again… (I’d hoped the “F” would cloak my explative. Yeah, right.) At last, I can fix that blasted kitchen chair that takes a crazy, six-sided allen wrench which is actually included in the set! I know, a hexagon wrench isn’t that exotic, but it’s evaded me for the two decades I’ve had these ratty, loose chairs. So there! Tomorrow you shall all be tightened!

I so enjoyed that suspended state of not knowing who sent it, of believing some supernatural character like Santa Claus to be responsible, so I put off looking for the packaging slip for a good while. But we eventually found it, and I did learn the kind sender. I hope that he is smiling as he reads this. I hope it makes him happy to know that this day his gift created a moment of pure delight and surprise for three people in a tiny country house far from the road. These tools will be a useful part of our homestead for many, many years. Thank you. Really. Thanks, you sweetie, you.

And with that, I am off to sleep happily.