The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Judging A Book April 25, 2016

Ace Productions

Me, (on the right) back in the day. Chicago’s own Ace Productions. From rocker to chicken farmer. Crazy.

_________________________________________

Things aren’t always what they seem, are they?

The past two weeks have been so crammed with the events of life, both mundane and profound, and in the process of moving through all of it, the surprises just keep coming. To those on the outside looking in, it might seem we’ve got a quiet, simple life here in the country. But a closer look would tell one otherwise. Even now, when my son is absent for the week, I’m so beset with to-do lists that I feel almost stopped before I’ve begun. This is nothing new, however, and lest I come off sounding too whiny, let me add that it’s definitely a good sort of work that I’m beset with. I work for myself, I’m beholden only to my own dreams and goals, and for the most part, the stress in my life is low. Mostly.

I’ve spent the past six hours beginning to print out the past five years worth of blog posts, and it’s been interesting to see how my life’s evolved since we moved here from Chicago, now over seven years ago. Some things were planned for, but most were not (of course that we’re here at all was never, ever part of my plan!). And all of my experiences, pleasant or otherwise, have brought me to the place where I exist today, which is, at the end of the day, not a bad place to be. Actually it can be an exciting place to be. That’s not to say the future isn’t daunting. Yeah, it still scares me. But to look back over the past few years has helped me to realize how far Elihu and I have both come.

The other day a new friend of mine came over to see my home. She was rather taken aback at the interior – apparently I hadn’t accurately represented it the way it appeared to her. “You said it was a crappy little ranch house…?” she said, a little confused. But here’s the thing, it is a crappy little ranch house! It’s got all of four rooms – and apart from the walls I painted, there’s a distinct, lingering essence of Brady Bunch (partly due to the harvest gold range). Yes, on the face of it, I live in a modest, almost crappy house. But inside it’s cozy, inviting and easy on the eyes. It’s not so much the piano, the harpsichord, the great view or how it’s decorated, but rather that it’s comfortable, and most importantly, it’s lived in. Elihu and I have often joked that we have a “tardis” house – cuz it feels completely different on the inside than it looks on the outside. Yup, outer appearances don’t always tell the whole story.

Last night I went out. Went to a dinner and evening of gambling at the Casino and Raceway. I am not terribly fond of the place, but for one night of the year I allow myself to “do as the Romans do”, and I try to enjoy the place for what it is (not a good fit for someone on a lean budget perhaps, but thankfully my penny betting netted me $6). During my night I met several interesting people. Firstly, I met a successful local realtor, who showed off his smooth interpersonal skills like a modern-day, barroom Yoda. I learned his father was a piano tuner, his grandfather had played the banjo, and he himself was a barber shop singer. Yet in spite of the personal tidbits he had given me, I didn’t end up feeling completely at ease with him; his eyes scanned the room almost continuously, seldom stopping to meet mine, and it made me wonder if he might have wished an escape from our conversation, which may have gone on too long for his comfort. I tend to filter very little, and don’t cultivate a very ‘pro’ game face in social situations. Maybe that was it. Maybe he was eager for his girlfriend to arrive. Maybe I was simply thinking too much, and this was just how he was. Who knows? Regardless, it was interesting to talk with him, and the direction of this post was in good part inspired my our conversation.

The fellow serving our prime rib on the buffet line turned out to be an interesting fellow as well. One parent was from Montreal, one from Mexico, he’d grown up between the two, and he had an engineering degree but now worked as a chef. I’m always interested to hear how people got here from wherever it was they were before. So many stories. Mind boggling. The bartender in the dance club was European, of French and Italian parents, her co-worker from Ukraine. And as I danced, I noticed a black man in a wheelchair on the sidelines. Feeling a little guilty that I was dancing, and that he couldn’t, I went over and said hello. Turns out he’s a motivational speaker and trainer – and he was just doing a little assessment of the crowd as to whether he would indeed get on the dance floor – sometimes it feels right, sometimes it doesn’t, he explained. He told me he loves to dance, and then did a little spin in his chair showing off some colored lights under the wheels.

After drawing “Prince” and then his “formerly known as” symbol on my hand in sharpie and waving it at the DJ (to which he nodded enthusiastically), I waited for a long while, thinking this would be the perfect ending to the night. But again, what seems obvious to me might not seem so obvious to the other guy. It seemed without question that a dance club would pay homage to Prince only two days after his death – don’t you think? Well, these guys didn’t. No one did. And in fact, Prince’s death really didn’t resonate in any meaningful way with any of the people in my small group. Seriously. It kinda shocked me. But again, each of us lives in our own tiny universe. My mother can’t live without the opera on Saturday afternoons, me I like Prairie Home Companion, and a whole lotta folks don’t know or care about either. We judge others by how we feel, and by what’s important to us, and sometimes that criteria doesn’t even exist for others.

Prince himself is a great example of the paradox of perception. His take-no-prisoners showmanship and over the top sexuality – in fact, his over-the-top androgyny – all of it might suggest a man who might well be full of himself. In real life, Prince was nothing like the expression of himself on stage, in fact, he was a private person who lived a rather usual life at home. He enjoyed his friends, he enjoyed supporting and guiding young talents, and he enjoyed seeing those around him happy and thriving. But more than this – he was actually frightened by the prospect of getting on stage. He suffered from anxiety, and felt most comfortable and stress-free when at home. Which is why, I suppose, he hunkered down in Minneapolis, never moving up and out to a more lavish lifestyle in a more glamorous location. Stories are now coming to the fore of his having acquired a dependence on certain opiates in order to function as he needed to. And this I understand. I’ve lived with panic attacks since the age of 14, and they are not a joke. Nor are they something that can be rationally understood, or mitigated by practical wisdom. In fact, I’m not sure that I’d find myself comfortable on stage anymore. There was a time when I could sing a cappella for thousands of people and not be frightened – hell, once upon a time that was inspiring. But not these days. Not that the idea doesn’t thrill me, but something irrational and deep inside wouldn’t make it easy. So I get it. Prince had two sides – each viable, each genuine – but each completely different from the other. But to look at the guy, you’d never know.

Life is full of variety, surprises and unpredictable events. And it’s certainly not under our control. Our guidance, perhaps, but control?…. nope. What I’ve learned, in going through my old posts tonight, and in meeting so many new people these past few weeks, as well as trying to better understand the death of a personal hero, is that it behooves one to listen, and to try to really understand where other people are coming from. It’s important to try to learn how they see the world. When I remember this, I find it helps smooth out rough patches in my relationships, and it helps me to consider troubling situations as possible opportunities for new ways of thinking about the world.

A final note about Prince that I wish to make so very clear: he was a person who lived with love and respect for all living things. He felt a deep, reverential connection to God through his music. He was a mentor, a teacher, a philanthropist. He was, in my opinion, an incredibly powerful expression of God among us. He was so super-bad and over-the-top, that his love, reverence and wisdom could be easily missed by those who saw only what he presented to the world. So, it just goes to show. You never really know what’s inside the book until you start to read…

 

Full Up April 9, 2016

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Farm Life — wingmother @ 11:53 am

That my last, desperate and furious post has been swinging out in the wind for all to see over the past week has had me feeling the slightest tinge of regret. I wonder, sometimes, if I go too far, if I neglect to filter things properly for a large audience; if I might care to refrain from letting it all hang out as I sometimes do…. But then again… Isn’t that why I’m here? Ah well. This week, I can happily report that things are again, as I knew they would be, better.

Our emergency heating assistance finally came through (I’m amused that our oil vendor’s middle name is Serafin… For to me, he is always an angel arriving in time to save us…). Our support from the ex arrived, so too did the renewal of food stamps. The end of the month is the lean time – and since I know this intellectually, it helps take the edge off to some degree, but when the heat runs out and the support is late and the food stamps are two weeks away and half of my students cancel… That margin of time can be a frightening place in which to exist. I know there are always folks who have it far, far worse, but still…

I heard yesterday on NPR that people who live in poverty are not good at saving (duh) because they can’t see past their next utility bill… Furthermore, folks who live in poverty can suffer a drop in IQ of up to 13 points. So ‘they’ say. Good Lord, I’m fairly sure I cannot afford such a drop in my intelligence quotient. While the segment had intrigued me enough to stay in the car and listen long after I’d arrived in my driveway, I couldn’t help but think (hope is a more accurate word, I suppose) that this study had nothing to do with my kind of poor, which was clearly a more enlightened sort of poverty. Or was it? Man. Just when things were feeling so refreshed and hopeful…  I sat there for a moment, wondering at what this all meant for me. And then, I heard my father’s voice in my head, and it made me smile. I know what he would have said to all this nonsense. Fuggem. Time to unload the groceries and measure the new oil level in the tank. Things are good once again, and I won’t let some stupid study tell me otherwise.

Ok. So the larder is refreshed, we have 250 gallons of fuel oil (who could ever guess that such a thing alone could bring me such joy and confidence??) and I have paid my utilities to date. Whew. Car insurance next, and with two new students this week, that’s covered. All this lifts my spirits, yes, but there’s another side to my financial concerns these days, and that’s The Studio. While I have assembled a board, and yes, things will finally begin to change – it’s still essentially all on me – and mom. There’s an insurance bill for $600 due in a week. Again, I will extend my open palm to my mother, knowing that her own nest egg is dwindling with every downturn of the market and every empty hand I offer to her. Next year, after The Studio has been up and running for a calendar year, our insurance cost will drop by a considerable amount, so that ember of hope keeps me going. We have our first ‘real’ event (that is to say, not all done by me alone) in early June, and yet, still it’s 90% on me. In a year’s time it may be much different, but for now, I still gotta hustle. And I am the first to admit – I may be a spunky gal, but I’m a lame-ass when it comes to business. I aim to get better, of course, but it’s a real force of will to follow through and keep things moving, let me tell you.

Right now, this very morning, I must turn my attention to stocking our incubator with eggs so that by Elihu’s thirteenth (?!?!?) birthday party on May 1st, all the new chicks will be hatching out. That has been a seven-year tradition here, but sadly, I have my personal doubts about the efficacy of our handsome but aging rooster. I am not entirely confident he’s been doing his part – I highly expect most of the eggs this year will be duds. Who knows though – we’ve been happily surprised in the past. I just hope that in spite of this last round of snow and cold, Bald Mountain has been taking care of business. A few years ago he was brimming with piss and vinegar – you couldn’t walk within five feet of him without suffering a charge from the testy creature – but now, he limps a few paces towards his target and then sort of peters out, appearing to have forgotten it was he’d set out to do. I still don’t like to turn my back on him, but somehow, I feel the fire may be burning much lower this year. We shall see…

This week has also seen the resolution of an open-ended health question of mine. For a number of years I’ve experienced a slight tremulous feeling in my heartbeat on occasion, so at my mother’s insistence (as she herself has afib issues) I had it checked out yesterday. Knowing all too well what my heart behaves like during the onset of panic attacks, I am pretty well attuned to what my normal, beating heart feels like. After an EKG came back looking “textbook normal”, and after my doc heard no abnormalities herself, I sat there on the crinkly papered examining table feeling a bit like the boy who cried wolf. But there is one thing my age and experience tell me for sure: do not ignore the ‘God voice’. And this time, I didn’t. So at least I can have the confidence to know that I paid attention – and thankfully, have the peace of mind to know that as of yet, the medical world seems to think I have no worrisome issues of the heart. Which is good.

My friend, board member, sculptor, multi-media artist and go-getter of a woman miChelle just called to confirm that I’d read her recent, ball-busting press release. God bless her for taking up the charge when I was so distracted by my own personal mess this past week. This made me feel good to be sure, and so did the tip she gave us on finding a place where we can likely get ourselves a half-dozen fertile eggs. A mile or so from her house we’re told to look for the joint with the six-foot iron chicken on the road. Will do.

Elihu and I are treating ourselves this morning to breakfast out. It’s been a couple of months since we’ve done this – and while I still have to scrape together $50 for a tuba lesson tomorrow, we’re lucky to have enough cushion to do this without too much guilt. Afterwards, we’ll drive off on a new adventure, looking for the six-foot hen and the new friendships and adventures that lie just beyond…

By the time we retire tonight we’ll be restored and ready, the incubator gently ticking away again in the living room, all of its rows full up with eggs ready to begin the big change.

 

 

Not Quite April 4, 2016

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal... — wingmother @ 1:43 pm

IMG_6291

 

In the wake of my last post, one in which I celebrate all the exciting and happy events that my son and I have shared lately, I wonder if the rant on which I am about to embark will seem unjustified, perhaps even somewhat manic. I mean, things for the most part here are good. Right? The photos I share seem to represent and lovely mix of town and country, academic and leisure pursuits, and certainly the life of two people who for the most part, have it good.

Yes, we do have it good. This I know. But still, there’s always another side of the coin, and the flip of that proverbial coin can be lightning fast and unpredictable. It’s this turning on a dime of our circumstances that makes me uneasy about the future, while stirring up my deep-buried bitterness about the past. We appear to have all we need, but sometimes I can’t help but think ‘not quite…’

I know I’m where I should be. I know that I should thank my ex husband a thousand times for giving us this life here. I know that my soul – and my marriage – would have withered if we’d stayed in that tiny, provincial town in the Midwest. And I absolutely know that my son is thriving precisely because we came here. And all of this – our chickens, the view of the mountains, the Waldorf School, Elihu’s love of aviation, his playing the tuba and loving polkas, the Studio, the fact that I was with my father as he died – all of this and so much more would not have been possible if my husband hadn’t left me. I know, I know, I know. I remind myself over and over….

But the fuel oil has run out in spite of my turning it off for twelve hours out of every twenty-four and the house is slowly grinding down to a deep cold, I have less than ten dollars in my checking account because of all manner of unplanned expenses – from gas for my car to tutors for math – my computer no longer recognizes the printer, but that doesn’t matter anyhow, because I’m out of ink. The copier still works, and I’d get to work on printing out information for my taxes, but I can’t even buy ink cuz I’m out of money. The phone just rang, and I learned that I missed the deadline for Elihu’s tuition assistance at school. I’d somehow tied it in my mind with the tax deadline, but I was two weeks off. It’s of no consequence now anyhow, but still, I look for the reminder email and I find it buried a hundred emails deep in my inbox. Fuck. Guess I’ll have to enter all the figures in by hand, and hope that turning it in late is better than not turning it in at all.

Like worrying a wound to make sure it still smarts, in moments like this when the shitty stuff seems to be happening all at once, I play back the words my ex husband said to me before we married. “Remember, no matter what happens, divorce is not an option.” At the time I’d thought it sounded strange, and it had given me pause. He’d been uncharacteristically serious when he’d said it; truly, it had felt very unnatural. But I’d dismissed my feelings and chalked it up to a robust vote for a lifelong union that would prevail in the face of absolutely anything that life might have in store for us. (In hindsight, it kinda seems as if he must have known something I didn’t.) What, I wondered, could ‘no matter what happens‘ possibly look like? My ex solemnly repeated his words, and looked for my agreement, which I gave to him with all of my heart. “No matter what happens, divorce is not an option….”

For the most part I don’t mind going it alone, without a partner. Most of the time I truly prefer it. That’s not to say there aren’t times when I keenly miss having a mate, a partner, a best friend… I also miss having another adult around to help share the load, both emotionally as well as financially. At one time my ex husband provided all of those things. My ex was (and is) a man who liked to be at the helm of things, taking charge, leading the way, breaking new ground, and as such, he took care of shit. I may have kept the home, done the bill paying and domestic stuff, but it was mostly he who made it all financially possible. So I never worried. He was, after all, in addition to being a pretty good bread-winner himself, the only child of well-to-do parents. For a short time in our relationship I fretted over the financial inequality; I felt deeply crappy that I wasn’t able to pull in the ‘real’ money as my spouse did. But we’d successfully worked through it when he posited to me that our relationship relied upon ‘division of labor’ (his words). He highly valued the home I created, the stability I made possible, and that I was there to raise our son. While initially this idea had felt shameful, outdated and chauvinistic, when I put all that cultural crap aside, I could see that he was right. And it had felt supremely good that my role was validated and appreciated. Once upon a time, a long time ago, my partner recognized me for all of this. And deep inside, his recognition was what allowed me to function in the world, guilt-free, and sometimes, even, with great pride.

All emotionally healthy people know that we cannot look to external sources for validation. We must provide that for ourselves. Yes, we know this. And yet who among us, no matter how successful, how old, how experienced, doesn’t wish for a little nod of approval from the outside world? Only as I’ve gotten older have I come to understand that everyone – everyone – could always use a little proverbial thumbs up from a fellow human being. And I know I get that thumbs up every so often when a student laughs at a new understanding, or when kids run up to me, arms open for a hug, happy to see Miss Elizabeth… But sometimes I wish I had my own life and my own interests back again; I can’t help but feel that would make me feel deeply validated – and happy, too. My enthusiasm for throwback Thursday on Facebook is beginning to worry me… I look at all those bands I played in, I remember all that fun, all that music… Where the fuck is that same sense of enjoyment and satisfaction now? I share in my son’s discoveries, and to some extent they’re mine too, but still…

It’s there, somewhere. This new life, the one I wish for, the one I can all but imagine… It feels as if it’s around the corner, but then again, I’ve been disappointed before. Who’s to say there’s anything around the corner except more chickens, more chauffeuring to school, more food to prepare and dishes to wash…? I know I should just shut up already. Yeah, I know it. One day Elihu will be grown and on his own, and I’ll likely miss these days with a stinging nostalgia. I know. I also know that being down about things doesn’t help the situation. My kid is always correcting my negative talk – in much the same way as I must work to turnaround the chronically negative spin my mother herself puts on every little thing – and he reminds me to speak as if things are already as I wish them to be. He warns me against giving energy to this great, looming doubt I have that follows me like a cloud. And for the most part, I am positive. I’m the one leading the charge; packing up the tuba, enlarging and copying music, charging helicopter batteries, cooking ahead of time so we can go flying, stocking the car with polka CDs… I’m the one rehabbing the Studio, making sure the pipes don’t freeze and that the accountant has the papers she needs, making sure there’s salt for the entry and that the baseboard heaters don’t get left on all week… I’ve got this, honestly, I do…

But still, for the most part, I’m not satisfied with my current life. On paper it looks like I should be, so it gets me wondering… Honestly, what’s the difference between doubt and dissatisfaction and honest-to-goodness, clinical depression? Am I depressed? I wonder. But I don’t ever wonder long though, cuz fuck it, I’m too busy being scared about my future. I am what I am, I just gotta figure out how in hell the bills will get paid this month, and when – or if – this emergency heating assistance will ever arrive. And the Waldorf tuition assistance… Good Lord, I hope I haven’t fucked that up. I don’t cry often these days, but I can tell you tears are coming….

The house is getting colder now. I am feeling overwhelmed, and I don’t know where to start. I think of my office in the basement; the piles of unsorted receipts, to-do lists, empty applications… all of it waiting, waiting, waiting… If I don’t do it, it won’t get done. My kid wants to go to a summer residential science camp, that will take forms which will take not only time to fill – but ink to print. But I’m out of ink. So I’m stopped. I don’t want to go to the office anyhow, because it’s even colder down there. This is the kind of cold that will need more than two layers. It’s filling the whole house now. Should I cancel my students? I wonder. Man, I need the money, but can I receive people into a house where it’s less than 50 degrees? I don’t know. Crap. Yes, I do know. I will cancel them. The snow is not letting up, and my driveway must be a mess by now. This forces my hand. It’ll cost me the day’s income, but having the driveway plowed would cost the same as I would have made. Fuck.

How can I feel so stressed when there are homeless folks that at this very moment taking turns getting warm inside the Stewarts Shop on Church Street? Right now, they’re standing in the parking lot, hopping from foot to foot to keep warm, making small talk and smoking. (How do they even find the money to buy those damn things?) The homeless folks in town are a friendly lot, one of them is a very talented street drummer with whom Elihu’s played several times, and I like these people. I care about them, and I worry about them too. How on earth are they managing right now? I’m inside my house, sheltered from the wind and snow that falls on this April morning, but they are there, without any place to return to, in a state of perpetual limbo… How, how do they do it? And how dare I complain? Seriously.

There are no answers for me in this moment, and no, I don’t need a slew of private messages telling me to buck up, or asking if I’m ok. I’m not ok at the moment, this is clear. But I will be ok again, this is also clear. At the risk of confirming for readers that I’m in the midst of a manic swing here, I will continue to posit that at the conclusion of this crappy chapter there will come many new and wonderful things that I, from this point in my day, cannot quite envision or believe. Not quite… But I have faith that things ebb and flow, and that this too shall pass. Nothing in my present circumstances is dire. Uncomfortable and a little scary, perhaps, but really, as I’d said in my previous post, nothing in our world is personally dangerous or devastating. So, thanks for the witness. That’s the beauty of having this platform. One can vent. And venting helps a person to recuperate, regroup and restart. Which is what I’ll do, soon. Not quite yet, but soon. So thanks.

 

 

Highs, Lows and Loss April 2, 2016

We’ve had a lot of fun mini adventures here lately. However, tempering the moments of fun and light come the inevitable moments of drudgery, the tasks fundamental to the maintenance of physical life here on this planet. There are very few idle moments around here, and while generally I’m thankful for the brisk pace and new experiences that we’re fortunate to enjoy, it’s the other crap that often puts me in a crabby mood. Taxes must be filed, applications for summer programs must be filled out, applications for tuition assistance, for heating assistance, for food stamps, for teaching proposals, for class descriptions, email addresses must be entered into the database, old ones culled, websites must be maintained, chickens, frogs and fish must be fed and cleaned up after. And a twelve-year-old boy always seems to be hungry. And don’t get me started about dust bunnies or laundry or leaf-filled gutters. Yeah, there is never an end to it all. And yeah, I’m grateful for all we have, but still…

It was my Uncle Paul’s birthday on March 31st, and in that my mother doesn’t keep up with her only sibling and family, I thought it might be a good idea to check in. My Uncle Paul had a stroke a few years back, and so his speech is slow – combine that with Aunt Sandy’s proclivity for endless small-talk and chatter, and poor Paul is relegated to a virtually speech-free existence. Thankfully, it being his birthday, Sandy passed the phone over to him and I had a brief exchange with my only living uncle. I heard him speak long enough to understand a certain gentle humor, as well as a fatigued sense of surrender. This was understandable, as I’d learned (this is a good example of how little my family members communicate with each other) that his daughter, my cousin Janice, had finally lost her battle with colon cancer last summer.

Summer before last I’d insisted that mom, Elihu and I visit the Jackson family, and now I was especially glad that we did. In spite of having virtually nothing in common with my newly re-met cousin, I’d liked her. She’d battled cancer for six years, ever-smiling, ever sweet of demeanor. I’d admired her for that alone. She’d even demonstrated her kindness to me in a thoughtful, hand-written letter at Christmastime. To learn she’d died was, although distantly sad, no deep heartbreak for me. Instead I felt relief for her – because she’d been through the wringer over the past few years, with six-hour commutes once a week for chemo treatments to the daily indignity of living with a permanent colostomy bag. But more than all of this, her death left me wondering once again at the deep level of chronic heartbreak with which so many of my fellow humans must live out their time here on earth. It should just not be that a man should lose his physical faculties, live until old age, and then witness the slow death of his only daughter. Fuck that. No matter whether one believes in destiny, the wisdom of God’s choices or the necessity of working out karmic debt, seriously, how in hell does one make sense of this?

Recently, a local man went out for his nightly walk, suffered a fall, and subsequently died, alone, on the trail in the woods behind his house. His wife had gone to bed just as he had gone out for this routine stroll, and he had likely laid there on the ground, in the cold of night, long before he finally succumbed to his fate. A former president of local Skidmore College, mom told me that he once played harpsichord as part of an event at dad’s Baroque Festival in which five harpsichordists all performed… This morning, as I awoke fresh to a new day of possibility, my greatest challenges being tidying my home and feeding a growing boy, I remembered the news of this man’s death, and thought immediately of his wife. How must she be feeling on this very morning? She had laid sleeping in her bed as her husband, mere yards away, laid on the cold ground, dying. Man. It’s stuff like this that tempers my frustration with the toil of the everyday and helps to quiet my bitchy outbursts as I get back to this precious business of everyday life.

The other morning, on the way to school and in the absence of the usual polka soundtrack, Elihu began some intense existential rumination. He’d recently noted that every physical thing – outside the natural world, that is – had first existed in a person’s mind before it came to take form in physical reality. While I’d offered this concept to him in the past, apparently the corresponding light bulb moment had only just arrived. “So literally, we are living in other people’s minds. We live in the creations of other people’s thoughts!” He laughed, he shook his head in amazement. He had a half-dozen other threads of thought beginning to germinate too and he struggled to identify them. He’d begun to express his new ideas just recently on the long drive to Schenectady for a flying meet, and clearly in the five minutes of commute that remained there was little time to make headway with any of them. “Yeah, it’s true.” I summed up. “Every structure you see out the window existed first in someone’s imagination.” I paused for a moment, wondering how to bring the conversation to a tidy close. “It does take a while to get things physically manifested here on this physical plane, but in time, and with tenacity,” I said, as much to remind myself as to inspire my child, “just about anything can be realized.” He sat there, quiet, looking out of the window. He was clearly deep in thought, because he didn’t ask for me to turn on any polka music before we arrived at school.

The past few weeks have been a tangled flurry of life, death, simple pleasures and challenging tasks. So far, real heartbreak and tragedy are not ours personally, and for this we’re both appreciative. Elihu has recently met a gentleman that we readily refer to as his new flying mentor, and in the short time we’ve known him he’s already opened up a whole new world to us. So this particular adventure has begun, if you’ll pardon the pun, to take flight. ! From the lowest notes on Elihu’s C tuba to the ceiling of the Schenectady Armory, we’ve had some truly exhilarating experiences lately. And since one never knows when the whole affair may come crashing to a close, we’re savoring the whole shebang –  we’re flying along on the current of our life, learning from the highs, the lows and all that stuff that fits somewhere in between.

IMG_4985Our weeks end on Sunday, which is tuba lesson day. Can you imagine that Elihu’s tuba teacher not only lives in our town, but he has chickens? (And goats and horses, and he built his own house, and he has six children – including a set of quadruplets – and he’s one of the best low brass players and teachers in the region. And he’s a super nice guy. Say what??)

IMG_4993Imagine a tuba lesson that starts like this. !!

IMG_4997Yup, Elihu is a lucky, happy boy.

IMG_5018Finally Elihu’s reading has gotten to the point where it’s not the focus of the lesson – but technique and sound are.

IMG_5078We went to the high school’s performance of Bye Bye Birdie, where, as our usual serendipitous good luck would have it, we enjoyed front row seats, in spite of our having arrived late. ! Elihu’s tuba teacher’s eldest daughter played trombone in the pit orchestra, as did an old friend. The fellow conducting and playing keyboards is the music teacher here; I use his classroom to teach my adult ed class entitled “Not Your Mother’s Piano Teacher”. Oh – and one of my piano students did the lighting. An extremely impressive production, as always. Truly, more than top-notch all the way around.

IMG_5028Later on we Skyped with some dear friends in France. Regular readers may remember young Lilas and her mother, Mary. Mary’s the daughter of old family friends from Greenfield – Mary’s mother was an actor and performed at my father’s Baroque Fest ages ago – so it’s nice to keep this connection. Mary also teaches at the Waldorf School there – so we’ve got that in common too.

IMG_5177I have new friends who’ve moved here from Sicily – and they kindly gave us this Easter treat. There’s a boiled egg baked inside! Apparently this is traditional in many European cultures, but for us it was a first.

IMG_5544It seems the Easter Bunny is still visiting the Hillhouse…

IMG_5549Which made one big kid very happy.

IMG_5560Since Elihu sees no color whatsoever, eggs need high-contrast decorations to stand out. Why the blue? you ask. To add some depth, I suppose. Also cuz I thought it was pretty.

IMG_5673A tradition for many years now (and which we skipped last year as he was with his father), we visited what we call “the lightning tree”. Every year Elihu adds a bit to the primitive stone structure at the base of the charred-out tree. I was happy to see the ‘mom and son’ cairns from three years ago had survived the wind and weather. We passed two hours there as if it were ten minutes. So much fun.

IMG_5681A closer look at the rocks… A winding hillside road is off to the left, the woods directly ahead and to the South, our house a bit off to Southwest, and the big field is just out of the frame to the right.

IMG_5692This tree hangs precipitously over the edge of a good fifteen foot drop to the road; you can see the pavement through the roots where the tree has been burned away.

IMG_5734During our fort-making we found several surprises…

IMG_5742Remainders of a time when this was all cow pasture and farm. We also found a garden rake and remnants of a small shack.

IMG_5800Heading home. There’s a break in the stone wall (which divides our property from the field) where the birch tree leans out. Just out of frame (sigh) and to the right is the new construction house, the sight of which still depresses us both.

IMG_5825Elihu regaled mom and me with some pretty funny new jokes during Easter supper.

IMG_5987While out and about I saw this license plate. !!

IMG_5429Got myself my biannual hair cut. Old friends have chided me for maintaining something of an ’80s’ hairstyle, but I argue that it’s best to work with what one has. Me, I’ve got curl. This is my perennial, scrunch-n-go favorite. Think what you will. It works.

IMG_5536Ah, the endless battle against the hardest water known to man. This stain was created in less than two weeks’ time. Yup. Many times it’s been posited that we should bottle the stuff and sell it. Saratoga Water – meh! How about some Greenfield Gold?

IMG_5514My favorite visitor to the platform feeder, our beloved guinea fowl, Austin. He is a real goofburger.

IMG_5205Elihu has a loaner C concert tuba at home (Ed, we can never, ever thank you enough!) and what we affectionately call a “B flat beater” tuba, which we own, and which is kept at school in order to prolong mom’s back health. !! My kid must play in two different tunings – me, I’m immensely impressed by that. Btw – musician joke digest: Guy hears the breaking of glass… Runs to his car…. Finds TWO tubas in the back seat…

IMG_5301We’re at the Schenectady Armory – the huge and gorgeous room where local model aircraft enthusiasts meet weekly to enjoy windless, indoor flying.

IMG_5233And this is Jesse. It’s safe to say that this man has forever changed Elihu’s life.

IMG_5225Jesse’s old school; he’s got a rubber band winder with a 1:15 ratio. That loads a lot of power onto the band. His crafts in flight are something rare to witness; as one circled gently around the room high over our heads on a nearly one minute-long flight, there was simply not a work spoken by anyone present. It is a thing of such magic and beauty that no comment can accurately express the delight one feels to watch as it soars…

IMG_5360Jesse even let Elihu fly some of his RC planes. A gentleman and a wonderful teacher, the trust he put in Elihu was a real gift. It enabled my son to finally get the feel of flying a plane.

IMG_5356Hanging with the new posse. Click here to watch Elihu’s first walkalong glider experience, and click here to watch mom give it a try the following week.

IMG_5376Ok, this almost made my head explode. Elihu loves, loves, loves the German language, and of all things – there’s a German restaurant on the way home… So we stop in for a bite of bratwurst…

IMG_5378…and wait, you’re kidding me, right? There’s a friggin tuba player arriving just at the same time as us!!

IMG_5379 This is what lil man has to look forward to… (Let me tell you – a soft case is a walk in the park compared to the hard case I move every Sunday!)

IMG_5399OMG – the charts are even in German. !!

IMG_5406An afternoon of flying followed by live polka music with a tuba player in a German restaurant?!?! WHAT? (Oh – and we learned later that Elihu and Jeremy the tuba player both study with Mike Meidenbauer!)

IMG_5996Recently The Studio was host to an event. A success I suppose, in spite of the fact that the host’s car got stuck in the mud and she needed a tow truck to get her out and now I gotta figure out how to fix the lawn. Sigh. Two steps forward, one step back… Overhead’s still killing me at the moment, but all in due time, I suppose…

IMG_5999Elihu donned his Grandpa Robert’s madras bow tie for his school Spring Assembly for the Waldorf School.

IMG_6038How I wish I had a better picture, but from way in the back this was the best I could do. Elihu and pal Drake performed a tongue-twister sketch which they wrote, the last line of which was “Fancy froggy fanciers feed my farmed, frivolous, furry, frightened, fluttering, flightless fruit flies to phyllobates frogs from Florida forests.” !

IMG_6125A bow-tied man is a man of good character, no matter the age. (The fellow on the left even plays tuba. !) A fine performance, and a fine conclusion to a fun and full couple of weeks.