Bass Happy Boy

Although we’re a household of modest means, we’ve created a rather rich life for ourselves here in the country. However, we have by no means done it alone; through the years we’ve been the beneficiary of much assistance in many forms and from many sources. From monetary donations to informative tips, from in-kind gifts to the more conventional and institutional forms of aid, we’ve been blessed to receive enough to keep the fires burning and the engine moving forward.

This is a season in which everyone beseeches us to give more, I know, and I hate to add to that din, but still… I’m coming to the end of my ability to store media here on this WordPress platform, and if I were to delete the old pics in order to post new ones, they would disappear from the blog. Which I don’t really want (selfishly I rely on this online journal to remember our personal history; this, for me, is our family scrapbook), so I’m hoping to raise $300 in order to boost my storage space enough to last well into the next decade. If you’ve enjoyed any of these 550 plus posts and you’ve passed up the tip jar icon thus far, I hope you might consider leaving a small tip – just a dollar or two – on your next visit. Santa, as I hear it, has been investing all of his resources into tuba and bass-related paraphernalia as well as more mundane purchases such as heating oil and liability insurance, and so he would welcome a little help if anyone is so inclined.

There may be a reason I’ve never been very good at business. I hate asking. My pitch, although colorful and perhaps touching at times, is anything but over-confident. Most folks have a limit for the self-loathing and needless self-deprecation of others. I know I do. And all that self-doubting business doesn’t necessarily inspire philanthropic support.

That being said, there are a couple of things I can say with complete confidence: firstly, this blog brings enjoyment to many readers, and secondly, my son is in love with all things that resound in the bass clef. These things I know.

The bottom line? I hope you’ll consider leaving a small tip for The Hillhouse in the jar over the holiday season.

Maybe think of it as buying me a cup of coffee, or Elihu a cup of his favorite peppermint tea. But regardless of whether you hit the tip jar on the way out or not – I still offer you a sincere thanks for your audience here; you must know that that in of itself has far more value to me. Only thing is, this modest blog – despite the advertisement for disposable adult underwear that accompanies it (gasp – is that honestly my demographic now??) – sees not a penny of that revenue, contrary to what some readers have come to believe.

Again, thanks for coming along with us on our adventures here. Tips or no tips, we couldn’t wish for better friends.

Post Script: Thanks for the personal emails, messages and Facebook responses, your input is most welcome, but I wanted to be clear that I’m in need of proprietary WordPress storage – which costs $299. I have hard drive storage for all my images, but they must be stored on the WP platform in order to show up here in the online posts. Also, I want to thank our friends for making such generous contributions in such short order! (Honestly, just a dollar or two would suffice!) We’ll let you know our progress… xo


frog in pond

If I learned how to construct a Sonnet in my school years, I certainly can’t recall it now. Elihu, however, is in the midst of a creative writing block in school, and the form is very much on his mind. So are frogs. Yesterday the seventh grade recited Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60 for the school assembly. All of these elements combined have resulted in this work…


The Wide Variety of Frogs           by Elihu Conant-Haque


There are so many different kinds of frogs

They jump, change color, swim and even fly

Frogs live in woodlands, rainforests and bogs

But frogs need clean, warm climates or they’ll die


The Wallace Frog with hands outstretched, soars high

His skillful twists and turns no frog can match,

The distance of his fall is what he flies

Below him treefrogs climb like acrobats.


The Golden Treefrog speedily doth climb,

How graceful is he sitting ‘pon his log

And tho’ they didst for naught to help my rhyme

We’ll note the Pickerel and Leopard Frog


And whilst I stand for my anuran friends

If e’er you hated frogs, please make amends.



Elihu loves everything low – especially if it’s made of metal. There is no doubt about it, this kid’s found his tribe.

Elihu’s flight got in very late last night, but the kid, he’s a trooper. He’s traveled a lot more than many adults I know, and in spite of having to deal with some really draining hurry-up-and-wait situations, his spirits seldom flag. Last night was no exception; he passed through the exit hallway as nonchalantly as if he were merely getting off the school bus. He coolly walked up to me this time – for the first time ever – without being followed by an employee of the airline holding out a clipboard for my signature. No one checked for my ID to see that I really was his mother. Nope. None of that stuff anymore. Just a lone ‘young traveler’ (as Southwest now officially refers to him) returning home.

Our reunions are different these days, and I struggle to remember what it felt like to see that tiny boy coming around the corner and running into my open arms. Now we just sort of pair up and begin walking to the escalators as if no time had passed, and as if we were nothing more than casual acquaintances. Which is ok, cuz however brilliant I may think my child to be, he is still 12. And self-respecting 12-year-old boys, no matter how much they love their mothers, do not want to be seen running into open arms, being gushed-over and animatedly doted upon. It’s my deepest desire to hold him tight and have him return the embrace, but I check myself. And secretly, I congratulate myself for holding back; because I actually do think that I’m settling into my new role as mother of a pre-teen with some style and dignity. It’s not easy, but it’s important to adjust, to respect the change that’s taking place here. And it’s got me thinking.

The little boy chapter is coming to a close, this new teenage chapter is yet to begin, and what follows is almost too much for me to even contemplate. One day, in a mere minute or two at the rate things are moving, my son will move out. And away. The way things are looking now (with his growing love of all things German), it may well be very far away. Our airport reunions will be far fewer. They may one day become more joyful, animated events, but nonetheless, there will be less of them for sure. As I sit beside him at baggage claim, I can see in the super-bright overhead lighting that there is a darker and more obvious patch of hair above his lip, and my heart sighs heavily. It’s coming. This young man is changing right before me. And one day, he’ll be out in the world doing his thing, and by then… it’ll be just me. I don’t mention this observation of mine, but as I study his elongated fingers and note how he sits almost as tall as me now, my heart whimpers. This will not be easy. I’m definitely gonna need a plan.

As we chat on the walk back to the car Elihu asks what I did this evening. I tell him that a friend had come over, and we’d had dinner and hung for a bit. Elihu asked about the nature of my relationship, and I told him. Me, I don’t want another element in my life. Not romantic, an any rate. I’m just not interested. “Does he know that?” Elihu asked me, sounding more like a bestie than my young son. I told him that yeah, I’d made it clear. There was a pause. “So, then, what do you want?” Elihu asked. I thought about the wide-open expanse of life in front of me and considered it a bit more critically than usual.

Recently, I’d made digital copies of some ancient videos. They represented so many of my old worlds, and it blew my mind to see things that I never thought I’d see again… My son, a tiny baby, being given a bath in the kitchen sink in our old house in Evanston. A clip or two of me at the radio station getting ready to go on air. Seeing Elihu’s father and me, performing together, happy and doing what I’d loved so well, it had cheered my spirits and saddened me all at the same time. Seeing me as an even younger, huge-haired rocker was amusing, and remembering that world was like peering into a dream… Then there were the alt-country bands, the indie projects and a million little worlds in between. Bits and pieces. A haphazard mosaic of my young adult life.

And then even longer ago here were fuzzy clips transferred from my dad’s super 8 reels of us as a young family – back in the early 70s when the Studio was just being built. Clips of concerts and rehearsals, of harpsichords being loaded into old Volkswagons. family dogs running underfoot, too-long scenes of cherished family cats doing nothing much at all. Almost every adult was smoking, and all were laughing and happy in this world of their own creation. I was peering through a magical window to see my mom, dad, Frank and Martha, and the many musicians who’d spent time with us in summers past as young adults – most of them far younger than I am now. These people were my whole world when I was young, and now many were simply dead and gone.

I thought of all the friends and peers whom I’d loved who were now so far-flung across the globe and fully embedded in their contemporary lives… All these groups I’d also been a part of once. All of it – the distant past and even the not-so-distant past – seemed in stark contrast to our current life. We had friends, yes, we had wonderful neighbors and truly good people in our lives, but still, there was something still missing. “What do you really want?” Elihu asked me again as we finally reached the car in the airport parking lot. After another moment of thought, I answered him, happy to have finally identified it for myself: “A tribe.”

Everyone needs to belong. Groups – in whatever form they manifest – are for most of us, essential. And all of us belong to several groups at any one time. Even here and now, in my somewhat smaller life, we belong to certain populations. The Waldorf school is one. Elihu’s peers, another. And there are those who help to make up our family by virtue of their physical proximity to us. But in revisiting these videos and recordings from another era, I’m reminded of the bonds that are absent in our current life. I miss being part of a community – of musicians.

Musically speaking, things appear somewhat fragmented in this area. I meet musicians who seem to know only folks whose genre they share. I inquire about folks outside their worlds, and they don’t really know much. Back in ‘the day’, in Chicago, while there were surely separate and distinct genres of musicians and scenes, there was often an overlap. Pop musicians would hire jazz guys to play on their tracks, jazz guys would stop in the dive country bars and marvel over the hidden talent there, hard rockers and R&B artists would mingle at the same parties. And me, I benefited from all of it. Me, I floated all over the place. As a result, I felt at home in many worlds. But the thing of it was, all these disparate musicians were aware of each other on some level. There was a commonality among all musicians, and one almost always felt an inherent sense of belonging. At least that’s how it felt to me. But here, in this small town, it doesn’t feel like that at all. Granted, I’m not working here as a musician, and I don’t get out a whole lot, but I’ve made some small inroads, and from what I can see, there are a lot of ‘micro scenes’, and no substantial cross-pollinisation between em. I’m not sure which population I might belong to. Honestly, I’m not convinced I belong in any of them.

Secretly, I’ve held the hope that one day I might bring the music to me; that I might create my own scene here, rather than searching for one out there. While the Studio is currently a bit too ambient and live a room in which to host anything but the most acoustic of musical ensembles, I hope to figure out a way to deaden it up a bit so I can begin to think of casting a wider net. As I imagine a future in which all things might be possible, I envision the room, once again full of people. Alive with music. A place in which people can meet each other. A place where a new tribe might assemble.

It is beginning to happen. Maybe not in a terribly obvious way, but things are starting to take shape. There is now a weekly yoga class. I see the looks on the faces of folks who are seeing the space for the first time. And just as in my father’s day, I hear people remark with surprise as they scan the room that they had ‘no idea’ a place like this existed here. But it does, and it calls for people to gather within its walls.

As the room fills with a dozen middle-aged moms in search of time for themselves, I begin to see more possibility growing… When Kristin dims the lights and begins to coach our bodies to move and our minds to relax, I begin to feel a future growing in this place. The way isn’t clear yet, but it isn’t as vague as it was a year ago. This is a time of transition, I remind myself again. I need to be patient. I also need to stick to my to-do lists and be vigilant about following through and keeping on the path. Things will get better, the way will get easier, and someday, oh I pray, I’ll find my new tribe along the way.

To Eleven

For most folks I suppose the holidays – from early December to early January – are the busiest. Or at least the most jam-packed months in terms of having things to do. Me, it’s usually fall. Things don’t clear usually til November hits. Most years mid-fall is full; there have been many hours invested in an elaborate costume, plus there’s getting the house ready for winter, cleaning the coop and other various homesteading activities, and always, there’s the constant business of cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and teaching lessons. Although I no longer hold a day post (that’s a disguised way of saying day job; I still like to think playing piano at my son’s school, although it took up entire days, was not a true ‘day job’, thus I can maintain my lifelong record for never having ever had such! Is this a crazy thing to take pride in?), there never seems to be enough time to go around. Granted I still waste time almost daily on Facebook – my lifeline to the outside world – yet even when I forgo that destination for a couple of days in a row – there still seem to be more than a half a dozen things that need to get done in any one moment.

“Just hug me” Elihu said tonight as I began my ‘all-that-I-didn’t-get-done-today’ lament. “Forget about it. Just hold me.” So I did, and I kissed his brow, desperately grateful to have him in my life. Sometimes I’m not sure but what I don’t use my son – and my role as single mother – as an excuse for not accomplishing more than I do. But tonight I let myself off the hook. While it hasn’t necessarily been hectic around here, between nursing sick hens back to health in the kitchen (and losing one too), learning our furnace needs repair work, cleaning out the gutters and giving the house an overall pre-winter cleaning, there’s been steady, constant activity. And so for a moment, in my son’s darkened bedroom, with the plastic stars on the ceiling glowing above us, I stopped. I wrapped my arms around this inspiring, crazy kid of mine, and for a few minutes my heart lightened.

After I closed his door, I allowed myself an hour on the couch to peruse old copies of Dwell magazine. Being a huge fan of architecture, and especially the modern stuff, at first I found the photos jaw-dropping. The voyeuristic peek into the lives of the uber hip gave me a charge. And then, all of a sudden, it didn’t. That nagging feeling started in again. I was missing something. The world was going on out there, and I was stuck in here. All those gorgeous places. Places I would probably never visit, fine finishes I’d never see in my own home, complete, tidy and happy-looking families of which I’d never be a part. I tried to console myself; I’d traveled a lot, after all. I myself had owned a couple of mid-century beauties. And even now, I’d made a nice home here in spite of a nearly non-existent budget. And after all, wasn’t my real treasure – all that really mattered in the world – there with me in the next room?

Over the past weekend a young college student was hit and killed as he was walking home on Halloween night. Drunk driver. And in a flash, there went a mother’s whole life. That mother had been plunged into a relentless, living hell. Her life had been forever changed. I’d been ruminating on that for the past two days, ever since I saw the makeshift memorial at the side of the road and had returned home to google it. Each and every time I begin to doubt that my existence has any real value in this fathomlessly large world, I remember Elihu – and then that boy who died. It shakes me back.

Recently I shared some of my boating stories with a friend. He was a bit surprised to learn that I’d crewed, and that I’d been to so many faraway places. That I’d had this other life long before I’d had this one. But hell, that was only one of many lives that had come before. And I suppose that’s what’s at the crux of my ongoing internal struggle. All the exciting stuff seems to be behind me. Yeah, a part of me knows that’s not entirely true. The Studio lies before me, potential unrealized, a dream yet to manifest. It’s just that I’m still doing it all myself. The board of directors is as it has been for the past half century; family and friends. And going forward, that ain’t gonna cut it. That contributes to the tiny voice that nags at me… Enlist help, find people to share the load, the dream… Get this done, get this going, get things moving forward… Turn things up already…

My life is full, Lord knows it. Most of the people on this toilsome planet don’t have it so good. Hard to remember some times, but I need to remind myself of this over and over again. Don’t we all have moments of existential doubt? Mech, I know a handful of folks who very likely don’t – but I’m pretty sure most of us have our internal battles. The trick, I suppose, is to turn down the volume on the doubts and crank the other voices up to eleven.

Post Script: When I visited the funeral home’s page to leave my condolences for the young boy who had recently died, I was stunned to see that his middle name was Elihu. Imagine my shock at seeing such a thing; I have never met another Elihu before, and to see that this boy shared a name with my son took me aback. In fact, perhaps now because of that, I think many, many times during each day of that boy’s bereaved family. I treasure my son beyond expression, and I know that mother treasured her boy too. I learned how incredibly special, talented and loving he was, which makes this loss seem all the harder to understand. So please everyone, always give your children the ultimate in tenderness – and let them know how very much you value them. Savor every moment with them, because none of us is immune to sudden loss or tragedy.

Michael Elihu Hedges obituary