The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Leg Two Begins July 21, 2012

It’s the night before our trip. Got Elihu to bed just after nine – and that is amazing. Especially in that he hasn’t been asleep any time before 1 am these past two weeks…

The sounds I hear comfort me. They are the sounds of being home, a place I love to be. The faint ticking of a clock, the purr of a small fan, the laundry gently tumbling around inside the drum, punctuated by the muffled thudding sounds of tennis balls I added to keep towels and blankets light and fluffy. But the anticipation I’m feeling gives the peaceful evening a certain sort of edge. Tomorrow we’re going away again.

Got the chicken sitter booked. The suitcase is laid out in my room on the floor, just about packed with our stuff. Preparations are much smoother this time around. Got it together much easier tonite than this time a couple weeks ago. I’d been a bit out of practice before, but I got it back. Yeah, I remember how to do this. Plus I’m working on keeping it simple. I remember the days when I had to pack for months overseas – and that I had to be able to carry it too. So I learned how to bring less. (For the most part I don’t end up wearing every outfit I’ve brought with me. Do you?) On long trips I hand wash favorites. On short trips I just wear em a bunch of times with simple air-outs in between (making sure to keep my body oft-refreshed to prevent a funk from developing.) I like traveling light, and this will be such a trip. It’s short, our belongings few. Not lots to wear. Not much reason to fret.

What does, however, end up making packing so challenging this time are the ‘extra curriculars’. In this case: phone, phone charger, camera, extra chargeable batteries, battery charger, laptop, charger for laptop, DS game, Diji too, rc helicopters and their various charging cables too. Djemebe and tip jar, just in case. Plastic bucket for pond or sea life. Oh, and books – the ones we’ll read at night and the ones that’ll be read to us as we drive. This isn’t over-the-top crazy, but it requires a skosh of organizational ability. At the very least the project requires a captian, a GC, a head chef; someone to bring all departments together in a shared game plan. And we know who that is, don’t we? I will do the best I can, facing the possible slight dissatisfaction of the lucky young man whose items I am packing. I’ll do it well, but he’ll usually show me how he thinks I could have done it better, sometimes working himself up into quite a lather about it. In a few minutes he’ll get over it, but halfway thru the trip he’ll panic that something’s been left behind. He go through all his things to discover it hasn’t. Good thing that, ultimately, I have a very appreciative young son. In the end – after a mini hissy fit here or there – he always thanks me for remembering his stuff and packing so thoughtfully. Whew.

So it’s now morning of, and I see the coop door has not opened as it’s supposed to. Strike one. I take my strong coffee with me to investigate. Never did fix the nesting boxes – I toss a couple milk crates, sideways onto the floor. That’ll work for now. I spend some time with the timer til it appears to be back on track. Then I spend a half hour going over everything, loading bins, filling water barrels. I take my coffee cup back to the kitchen for a refill, and no sooner have I come back out the door than there is a red hen, just feet away, looking up at me expectantly. “What?!” I holler. I’m packed, I’m showered, I’m ready. All to do is get the kid up and dressed and we’re outta here. Now this??

I stay calm, I don’t let myself get dramatic about it – cuz I so very easily could – after all, what fun is being human if you can’t let yourself get swept up in the melodrama of it all once in a while? Not this morning. Gotta fix it. So I sit down with my cup of coffee in a nearby lawn chair and wait. And watch. Soon I see that one of the young Auracanas is out too. And he’s poking around trying to get back in. Now here comes old floppy comb – she’s one of the first to jump ship. I see her eyein’ a spot of fence. Mm-hmm. Think we got our breach. Yup. Some wire’s been pushed out enough for a bird to squeeze out of – but not back in. The lone hen on the outside walks past me and I lean over and snatch her up. Can’t deny that I give her a quick kiss on her head and thank her for all the wonderful eggs she gives us before I heave her over the top of the fence where she flutters back down and joins her flock. I corner the young Auracana and fling him back too. I find a lawnchair and a piece of lumber and nestle them alongside the breach. Done.

Finish my coffee inside, looking out the window to see if my fix is holding. Yup. Looking good. Get the kid up, dressed, and while I pack the car, he says his goodbyes to the frogs in our two small ponds. He does so without incident, and finally, we’re off…

Highway construction, heavy rain and alternate routes made our drive a bit longer than it might have been otherwise, but another book on tape plus my colorful monologue on the whole experience – we might call it ‘sailor in a CRV’ – these helped get us to our destination without too much undo stress.

Where are we? Well, at 2 am I am typing at my trusty and ancient G4 in a generous-sized guest room of our hosts, a family we met last summer in Saratoga who now live in West Orange, New Jersey. There is a boy one year older than Elihu, and a girl one year younger than he. The three of them have a really nice thing and play together as children should. Not all kids have such a natural groove as these three. You might even say we’ve driven 200 miles for a play date. Because after our time at the pool today, we’ll visit the wide open ocean tomorrow – zoo and aviary the next day. This time it won’t just be mom and son as usual – this time Elihu can be a full-on kid. Makes my heart happy. His too.

There’s more family to this trip than we’d even originally intended: My father grew up in nearby Passaic. My maternal grandmother was born one town over, in East Orange. My grandmother, mom and uncle Paul summered in Ocean Grove, the very town we will visit tomorrow. Not much has changed in the ocean side town; we’ll be looking upon much the same downtown streets as they did some sixty years ago. And I’ve been told to try the Breyer’s Strawberry Ice Cream. Will do.

I’ve enjoyed our recent opportunities to travel. It’s fun waking up someplace new, pulling back the shades each morning to reveal a new scene… I’m off to a peaceful sleep now, the imagined sound of the ocean luring me to my dreams…

 

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