The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Plymouth Ho! July 8, 2012

And here we are! On the north end of Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts. Wareham, to be exact. Our drive went smoothly – we drove the three and a half hours straight without stopping. (A very compelling book on tape by author Gary Paulsen had us riveted and helped to pass the time.) We stopped first at the Mayflower II in Plymouth. The smell of salt sea air hit us right away as did the sound of seagulls. Before us was a vast expanse of water – it was an inspiring sight. Somehow, my child who sees little of any detail beyond twenty feet, he too felt the shift in our space – he too felt the wide-open of it all. We were someplace very different. Sadly, the tourists (of which we were embarrassed to be a part) were everywhere, and it was all but impossible to imagine the scene some four hundred years ago – let alone fifty. We had romantic images in our head which were quickly dashed when reality set in. I had some idea it might be thus, but Elihu was quite disappointed in the commercial nature of the whole affair.

Aboard the Mayflower we met guides in costume who were deeply in character (lots more prep for this gig than Tony N Tina’s Wedding – that’s for sure!) and really helped to bring us into the feeling of the historic ship. Later, we visited an historic town circa 1627 as well as a Wampanoag Indian village that also employed costumed, in-character guides. We both loved the visit. Really fascinating.

And food? Well, what does one eat when on the Cape? Why lobster and clams – the whole silly body of the clam, thank you very much. No strips here. Serendipity guided us with absolute skill as we were prompted to find a restaurant in which we not only sat directly over the water, but we had open windows at our elbows, salt sea air gently wafting in and birds upon birds above and below, skimming, scooping, diving, swooping. We saw our very first cormorant in the flesh as we did a Caspian tern and the black-headed laughing gulls. But almost more amazing was that we sat next to a young boy who, like Elihu, had loved birds since he was small and knew them all just as well. Truly, this kid was a bird boy; so said his grandma and he himself nodded in agreement. Thomas, if you should in fact read this, it makes us happy to know that there is another boy in the world who loves birds as Elihu does. We were very happy to make your acquaintance and hope one day to meet you again.

Perhaps the most important part our trip was made just an hour ago when we visited with my Uncle Paul and Aunt Sandy. I hadn’t seen them in almost twenty years – yet they looked instantly familiar. And for the first time, here before me was a person outside my immediate family with whom I shared a bloodline; his face, build and mannerisms all right here for me to see up close. This was new. In the tiny room I could study my uncle. He was a good looking man – something I found interesting that I’d never noticed before. I could see the resemblance to my mom at once. I sat there, feeling almost as if I were in a dream. The Conants and the Jacksons (my mom’s side) just don’t ‘do’ family. It had occurred to me earlier as I wove around the curving roads and struggled to get my bearings in the dark, that none of them would have made this sort of effort to see us. But in the end it didn’t matter. My uncle’d had a stroke a few years ago and I had to come and see him in person before it was too late. I felt very lucky as we bid them goodnight and made our way down the steps to our car.

We’ll see them again tomorrow. Thankfully we have no agenda here but to lay on the beach, find some sea critters and hang with the family. Right now we’re going to get into bed and continue reading a book about a young boy on a whaling ship that once moored in nearby New Bedford. And just a minute ago, as Elihu flew his rc helicopter (single blade, fixed pitch he’d want you to know) he said “life is too good to be true right now!” Yup. That’s pretty much how we’re feeling.

Happy Post Script: We heard from the young birder and his cousin tonite! (Finally someone taking me up on the “Say Hello” page entreat…) Come back and visit again, Thomas and Lucas – and please share some of your bird stories with us sometime…


Eve Of

What thanks can I offer to all of you who’ve made this trip possible? I see the donations come in, I breathe a little easier, and yet I don’t. I’ve been given so much help from my friends over the past three – nay, almost four – years, and I begin to feel a little as if I need soon to be doing something for others. But for now I will receive all this kindness because I know you felt inspired to help. I’ll honor that by using your help to create a journey for Elihu and me that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

The eve of the journey is a tense time for me. How do I sleep? I printed out our directions, I have my maps, my car is ready, our bags are packed. Elihu was even asleep hours ago, allowing me the time to collect my thoughts and my things in the quiet of a nighttime house. Seeing all those driving directions had me a bit intimidated. Me? Afraid of getting places? Ha!

I can remember finding my way to a boat docked in a small harbor in Portugal with little more than the name of a nearby town – no language, little money (and carrying ten pounds of white flour – staples requested by the captain. Can you imagine making it through international airports carrying ten pounds of a white powdery substance? Whew. A more innocent time it was.) Once in Indonesia, not quite sure exactly where my hotel was, I navigated lanes upon lanes of traffic in Jakarta during a monsoon rain and finally arrived there by way of a trade: my western cigarettes for a one final wild ride in a Bajai that got me there safe. I’ve done hundreds of singing telegrams and in so doing was made to find every manner of crazy out-of-the-way joint you can imagine. All long before GPS. (We did, however, had GPS on the boat, that’s where I first learned of it.) And I love maps. If I lack some good bedside reading material, a map will do. Then again, it may do too well. I might be up all night reading it, cuz I just love to think about going places.

I really shouldn’t fret about the actual ‘getting there’ part. But still, that’s the part which has me up late and unable to sleep. Man, how did we do it thirty years ago? Was it so hard? Didn’t we just take the highways, take most likely looking exit and just ask local folks where to go from there? That must have been how we did it. People have been making car trips for decades without benefit of GPS… I gotta relax. Gotta remember it’s still in me. I can do this car trip thing.

Oh, but I’ve gone off on a tangent, when what I’d wanted to do in this final homemade post was to thank all of you so much. We two are so excited, so happy. Truly we are embarking on a modern day adventure. We know where we’re going, and yet we know not. It’s the little serendipitous surprises that make it so magical. So I guess it’s the anticipation of the things I know not that has me so keyed up at this late hour.

Thanks, dear friends. And now, finally, I’m off to bed. I think I’m ready to sleep now.