The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Guest, Host July 26, 2012

Can’t remember taking such a long time between posts til now. Life has been a flurry of activity this past week. Elihu and I have been the guests of others as we traveled, and now we ourselves have house guests. After we returned from our most recent trip, we had a day to unpack, do laundry and get our house ready for visitors; a mother and daughter have come here from Paris to stay for a couple of weeks. The young girl is almost six, and she and Elihu are fast friends. Both are precocious and as I like to say, ‘fully loaded’ children. As soon as we picked them up at the train station and got them into the back seat, they chattered away nonstop on the drive home. Yesterday they passed several hours in our little pond catching frogs and then spent a few hours inside playing with good old-fashioned toys. I was happy to see them on the living room floor creating a world of  their own with plastic animals, toy cars and blocks. My heart is happy to report that not one video monitor of any sort has been involved in their play. Currently this is a true Waldorf home indeed. The mother herself is in the final stretch of Waldorf training in France, and her daughter starts Waldorf school this fall, and of course, young Master Elihu is very much looking forward to his first, full year beginning this September. A week ago he asked me when school started; he told me he could hardly wait. !

I await my turn in the bathroom now, so finally I have some time to write. I’m not used to having two more people here; it takes much longer to get the troops mobilized. Our guests are staying in Elihu’s room – and while it’s not a problem for us in any way, it does require one slow down and make space for others, as well as modify one’s usual routine. I planned ahead, taking clothes from his drawers and keeping them in my room, so we’re fine, but we’re four folks in a small space, something I readily admit I’m not usually great with. Probably why I don’t enjoy being on the road with a band. Not a lot of personal space. And I’m accustomed to quite a lot of it. (I wouldn’t fare well in urban Japan.) Yet even though we both love our quiet, this little injection of human energy in our tiny home is actually quite nice.

I can’t possibly report on all the magical events of our last trip, but I’ll try to recall some highlights…

We enjoyed a comfortable stay with a family in New Jersey. It was a treat to have meals made and to be relieved of the daily chores of home and farm. Elihu and the two kids had a fabulous time together. We went to the pool where Elihu, emboldened by the presence of the other two kids, was finally able to go in water without any assistance (floatie or human), we went to a zoo, we held birds, and Elihu got some dedicated boy time while I was whisked away to a hair salon for a new ‘do with the girls.

I ran into a woman I’d known from grade school years back in Wilmette, Illinois while walking along the sidewalk of a tiny, oceanside town in New Jersey. Haven’t seen her in over twenty years and a thousand miles, and yet here we both were. Crazy. And in this same town – where my mother herself spent part of her ninth summer – Elihu finally learned what the ocean was in earnest. The waves were so big we were told by the lifeguards not to go in beyond our knees – but the temptation was too great for most of us, and soon we were riding waves the size of which I haven’t seen in years. Elihu, who’d started his visit by vehemently declaring he would get nowhere near the surf, was now mesmerized. By the salt, the ceaseless churning, the way the sand sucked out from beneath his feet when the waves retreated – the whole thing. He ended the day a most enthusiastic convert. I was thrilled that he finally knew. It really is one of my life’s most cherished experiences, and my heart rested happy knowing that Elihu now knew it for himself. I love our little corner of the world, but if I could live near an ocean, I would.

Finally, we made a pilgrimage to Passaic, New Jersey to see the neighborhood in which my father had grown up. Elihu and I were invited inside a home in my father’s old neighborhood (very nearly identical to dad’s, only in reverse; dad’s house was razed in the 80s to make way for a twenty story apartment building) so that Elihu might see how his grandfather had lived when he was a boy. A different time to be sure; there had been a button on the floor in the dining room on which the lady of the house could step, thereby ringing a bell in the kitchen to alert ‘cook’ to come and clear. The woman who lived there recounted how when they’d first moved in, her children had run around the furniture-less house and had made the bell ring so much that it finally expired. Just as well; grand home though it may still be, long gone are the days when cook brings in the next course. (My mother loves to tease my father about growing up with the dining room button – she likes to joke that hers must be broken.) After generously showing us around the first floor of the house, our kind hostess showed us to the grand front door through which we exited. We walked slowly down the steps, trying to imagine ourselves some seventy five years ago on this same spot. Elihu was greatly impressed by the house, and he wondered aloud, almost in tears of frustration (no exaggeration) what this neighborhood must have looked like in his grandfather’s time. We tried to imagine the towering elm trees, the ‘old-timey’ cars moving more slowly down the avenue, we tried to cover our hands over the tall apartment buildings that had begun to take over… we did our very best to try and conjure the scene. It was just what Elihu needed. He’s begun to feel a bit of apprehension at his grandfather’s diminishing condition, and he wants to know all he can about how he grew up. This was a fine end to our trip.

So now I’m home, my head not really able to linger over the images and experiences of the past few weeks. Things keep chugging along, requiring my attention and presence. Tomorrow Fareed arrives to pick Elihu up for the remainder of the summer. He’ll stay over one night (never was this house so full!) and then he and Elihu will leave on the train on Saturday. Our guests will remain for another week, and after they leave, when the last of the summer flurry is over, I will finally enjoy a little time alone before the year starts in again.

 

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