The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Ongoing October 20, 2013

I’ve spent nine hours today working on the Monarch caterpillar costume for Elihu and his classmates. While thankfully I have no other truly pressing projects, and while I did at least manage to cut out an hour for some domestic related stuff (a deep cleaning of the bathroom and a cursory vacuuming of the place) I can’t shake a dim sense that I might not have used my time in the best way possible. I scrutinize my hunch more closely and can’t really figure out what else it might have been that I should have done with my day. I feel a bit of regret at not having walked outside in the fresh air, not having visited my folks as I’d thought I might, but in light of my progress I let myself off the hook. It can’t be just me. I almost always feel a general tug of life – a dull, unfocused sense that I’m missing something, leaving some important thing undone. Not sure if it’s just a question of my personality in particular – of being nearly always engaged in an endeavor of some sort or another – or if it’s simply a question of my humanity in general. But it’s nearing nine at night, and in spite of the five completed caterpillar segments drying in my kitchen, I don’t quite feel I’ve used my day to its fullest potential. Sometimes writing helps ease the feeling; maybe this post will do the trick. Just gotta keep going.

Part of my mood tonight might come from having just found Sinbad, the goldfish that Elihu won this summer at the county fair, floating dead in the middle of the tank – and doing so within mere minutes of my having replaced some of the water. He was alive when I removed a pitcher of the old water, yet by the time I had finished pouring in the new water (same tap, same temp, and not very much was replaced and it was gently added) he was no longer moving. Really? I tapped the side of the tank hopefully. I waited. But not a fin on the little critter moved… Oh no, not Sinbad! It had me stopped for a moment. I was so sad at it, much sadder than I thought was probably justified, and I was confused too… what had done it? Had I killed him? Did I do the wrong thing? I removed him from the water, touched him gently, apologized…. Crazy, huh. I thought then about Elihu. He’d likely be stoic – probably more pragmatic about it than me – but one never knows. Either way, there’d be no sense in calling him with the news. It can keep til tomorrow, when he returns from visiting his dad. For now it would have to be my own tiny, sad secret. Phooey. After a good eight weeks I’d thought we’d finally made it as successful fish owners. We’ve not had good luck with them in years past and had debated about getting them again. And I don’t feel good about getting pets that are ultimately doomed to an unplanned death. Then my thoughts turn to our chickens, and realize that most likely they’ll be dispatched on Thursday, and it has me thinking. All of them have names. And have been around for a while now, some a few years even. We can actually see some individual personalities among them. So how is it that I’m ok with their deaths, and yet thrown off by the death of a tiny gold fish? Ah well. It is what it is. Nothing to do about it now. ‘Just keep going’ I tell myself.

What does brighten my mood is not just that I’ll see my son again tomorrow, but that I’m actually really looking forward to my job. To seeing the kids again, to being in that wonderful, dark and cozy building, to playing that gorgeous piano. I remember my experience the past week at the high school and I being to get a little re-energized. I’d subbed for the absent eurythmy teacher – and had felt incredibly under-qualified to do so. In fact I’d dreaded the week, realizing how little I knew about the class. But I decided to use it as an opportunity to meet all the kids, one-on-one, and in the end I was able to meet each one of them briefly as we sat on the floor and made introductions. Having a bit more personal of a connection to them all, now I find myself looking forward to the week in a new and refreshed sort of way. And then I remember the new piano students I have, and they too have me eager to teach, eager for the brand-new week that awaits me. To think that less than two months ago I had hardly any work, and now I not only have a job (though it’s still far less money than one might think), but I have a job that I love, one that inspires me and has me actually happy to wake up in the morning. That alone makes me a lucky gal. I think of all the people in this world who are just trying to get through the drudgery of their days, much less actually enjoying what they do. Yeah, I’m in a good place.

But no matter how good things might be, it doesn’t take a whole lot of logistic details to get me feeling overwhelmed, so before I get to bed tonight I’m going to go through the calendar and make sure all my re-scheduled appointments and new students have been written in. Sometimes I keep things like that in my head – but even with my humble life here, there’s just too much going on for me to remember it all. I suppose that also contributes a bit to my general sense that things haven’t been ‘completed’, that there’s something still left undone… I have to remind myself for the umpeenth time that nothing’s ever really done. Yeah, I know that. But still it’s nice to see a to-do list from a couple of months ago with most of the items successfully crossed off. My mind races around and grabs a few more things I’d forgotten to write down. The list grows a bit, but then finally finds an end for the night. For now I relinquish that little nagging voice. Cuz I’ll be happy to lay down to sleep tonight, and happy to wake to a new day tomorrow.

Be they mundane tasks or thrilling ones, either way, I suppose, there is never an end to the things yet to be done. Like this big world and all our adventures within it, the grand list is always there, always in a state somewhere between ‘to-do’ and ‘done’, ever-changing and ongoing, moving towards a future into which we never quite arrive…

 

Costume Mama

It’s that time of year again. While many experience a peak of stress around December, or perhaps around the end of the school year with exams, graduations and such, my personal crunch time is always mid October. I’ve always put a good deal of thought and effort into Elihu’s costumes (see my post “Halloweens Past“), beginning with simple stuff in his first few years and gradually evolving over time into elaborate affairs involving many hours of late-night labor. With Elihu’s love of birds at age six came his desire for an Eagle costume, the next year it was a Turkey Vulture, followed by an Anchiornus, and last year he was a Quetzalcoatles. (Here are some images from last year – choose images 20 and 21 – Elihu’s wings were on a pulley system and expanded out for a ten foot wingspan. The Eagle head on Cally (right) was his mask from a few years back). This year Elihu has entered into a new age; he has discovered video games and pop culture and has held a nearly year-long affection for action hero “Ben 10”, a ten year old boy who finds a mysterious watch, dons it and suddenly acquires the ability to morph into ten different alien characters, each one of which is responsible for helping to save planet Earth. In spite of being an exceptionally rational and sometimes very grown-up thinking kid, Elihu is nonetheless absolutely smitten with this fictional boy and has been asking me since late last winter if he might be Wild Vine for Halloween this year (one of the aforementioned alien personas of Ben 10.) And so, being a mother who having but one child can actually endeavor to spend so much time on such a costume, I agreed. I will also admit that I am personally very excited each year about the prospect of making his vision come to physical fruition. Yeah, I can’t complain about the extra work load as I take it on in love and I really do enjoy the whole process.

And as if bringing this Wild Vine fellow to life wasn’t enough, somehow I also committed myself to a second costume, one more school-friendly, and one that Elihu and a few fellow classmates could share for their school’s costume parade. The fifth grade has just concluded their study of Monarch butterflies, and so I suggested some of them go as a caterpillar. Then I myself started to get the vision, and I unintentionally stirred up a bit of enthusiasm for the idea. I gave it a day or two of thought, and then, after working out some design details in my head, announced to the boys that I would do it. The witness of some five or six kids left me no way out. After all, they had a parade to plan for, so I had to come through. Good thing my kid’s out of town this weekend, it’s been the perfect time to cover some ground.

Our process begins by collecting images. I let Elihu guide me; he chooses the pictures that most closely resemble his vision, and then we begin to talk engineering. This is where it can get tricky; when he was much younger we’d get to butting heads when it came to the ‘hows’ of the process. But thankfully as he’s gotten older he’s deferred to my wisdom and concentrated his efforts on pointing out cosmetic details I don’t always get. He’s got a great eye and the two of us make a pretty good team. I’m proud of our skills at collaboration; they’ve gotten much better and we can even now get through the construction of a costume without one single argument. More than I can say for how many adults might behave in the same situation. !

The architecture of the piece is always the first hurdle, and once I’ve completed that part I can rest for a bit. And frankly, if I hadn’t nearly completed Wild Vine I might not have offered my time for this new project. But Wild Vine is now completely finished (whew! Never been done with time to spare – it feels really good!) and so today I began the Monarch caterpillar. In fact, when I awoke this morning I realized that I was actually very excited to get started. It was a good hour before I thought to eat because I was already off and running. Unfortunately my PC is so full it no longer runs, and it’s hard enough just making a post on this ancient G4, so I can’t download – or upload – any pictures of my progress. But I’ve been so entrenched in the flow of my work, and so focused that I haven’t taken the time to even find my camera, let alone take photographs. That’s ok, I just gotta get it all done. I’ll post pics when I’m over this hump and can then turn my attention to my over-burdened hard drive downstairs.

Not sure if Elihu will want another costume again next year. I’m not sure just when this magic time of childhood comes to an end. I have memories from my own childhood of sixth grade boys being too cool to dress up, but not too cool for trick-or-treating. I remember their distinct lack of costumes, their plastic shopping bags, the voices from doorways telling them they were too old, but giving out candy anyway… My son’s world is different for sure, so I can’t really guess. I’m just making sure to enjoy this process while it’s here, because I do know for certain that one of these years I won’t be on costume duty anymore.

I’m done for the night. Haven’t been up this late in a long time. At a good stopping point, and have a full day’s work ahead tomorrow, plus several sessions after that. Nice to have this window of time to myself, nice to know that my son will come home in a few days to a killer costume. And to a mama who’s happy to have made it possible.