The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Our Backstory August 31, 2010

My name is Elizabeth Conant, and I am a middle-aged, single mom to a precocious, funny eleven year old boy named Elihu.

In the life that late I led, I was married to a guitar player.  I worked as a musician, singer and teacher. I was lucky to travel a fair amount and experienced a mixed bag of life adventures. My husband and I lived in Chicago for many years, and we enjoyed performing together for over two decades.

After our chapter in Chicago’s near north suburbs,  we moved to the cornfields of Dekalb, Illinois, where we bought and ran a small nightclub for a couple of years. We had a very young child and had planned for another. A move to this town, in which my husband taught part-time, seemed the perfect next step in our lives.

It was there that my husband told me that he had a girlfriend in town, and that they’d already been together for a few years… and that she was pregnant. She was quite a bit younger than us, and I knew her too, as she’d been a waitress at our cafe on occasion. (By this time I had also learned my ex had another child; a daughter with another woman our own age whom my ex had known years before. The child was born in another state, one month premature and two months before Elihu’s own birth in late April. It was a lot for my heart to deal with.)

My husband continued to live at home with us during the pregnancy; he continued to tell me he was confused and unsure of what he wanted. Even after months of a surreal, dream-like existence of painful emotions and fragile expectations, when he finally told me, a few months before the birth of his third child, that he felt his life was to be with his new family, it was nonetheless the most stunning, heart-rending news I’d ever heard. It was profoundly disorienting to say the least. In one simple declaration, my partner of 22 years had ended my role in his life. I asked him repeatedly how he envisioned the new logistics, but he just kept putting me off, saying that everything would sort itself out in time. Despite my months of self-deception, I could no longer deny that something had to be done; the situation was not going to solve itself.

So here it was; the big shift. I could no longer pretend that things might be going back to life as I’d previously known it. All of our lives changed in that moment; our son wouldn’t grow up with his father living at home; we would no longer share all those precious milestones of our son’s childhood as husband and wife… and just where exactly our home was to be now, that too was up for grabs.  I would be a single mother. And now, divorce would no longer be someone else’s sad story –  it would be mine too.

A fresh start was the only option for my mental health, clarity and mothering ability. I piloted my way through the following weeks in a daze, making plans from my head, while my heart dragged behind, wondering if there wasn’t some way to repair things, to save the marriage… Finally, after months of logistic feats and careful planning, I sold most of our stuff and packed up what was left and moved cross-country to live next door to my parents in upstate NY. Elihu began his school years here and I began, begrudgingly at first, to learn about life in the country.

The height of our drama is now six years past, and our son, thankfully, remembers no other life than belonging to two separate households (he was 5 when we left Illinois and his dad remained in our old home). He hasn’t been greatly traumatized by the change in plans; the life he has suits him fine and for the most part he’s a happy kid. Instead, I’m the one who still has to work on it daily. I’m grateful for this new, unexpected life, but I miss the “what might have beens” more than I should. But truthfully, things are so very much better these days.

In addition to having a natural gift for playing hand drums, my son is an avid birder and has been drawing birds since he was five. At about eight, his love of birds grew to encompass a love of all things aviation. He particularly loves the concept of flight, having spent hours upon hours studying the history of aircraft design, and he’s become a very skilled pilot of RC helicopters.

My son is also considered to be legally blind; he has a rare congenital eye condition known as Achromatopsia. He sees no color, has poor acuity and is extremely light sensitive, so he must wear very dark glasses in order to function in the world. Whenever I express my regret at his situation, he reminds me that it’s no big deal for him – he’s never known anything else. He says putting his glasses on is as routine for him as ‘putting on a pair of pants’. He tells me to ‘just forget about it’ (but of course as his mother, it’s something I’m keenly aware of).

In the end of third grade Elihu joined the local Waldorf school in town and absolutely loves it. And I was hired by my son’s school to play piano for their movement classes; it’s been a picture-perfect situation for us. Elihu also took up string bass this past year and has a real talent and love for it. (Although he loves all types of music, he has loved polkas best for more than half his life and aspires to playing tuba one day as well.)

Although I once lived the city life to its very fullest, I’m finding that this is a really good time in my life in which to live in the country. Lots to learn, and a gentler, slower pace. My days begin by collecting eggs and driving my son to school, and it suits us both pretty well.

This blog is a collection of my wandering thoughts and our varying adventures. I’m creating it with no blogging experience behind me. I have no expectations for this personal project, so any positive things that result will be a pleasant surprise. My thanks in advance for reading…

If you’d like to reach me personally, please email me at:


10 Responses to “Our Backstory”

  1. david franco Says:

    I think I have now read half of your blog. You’re an excellent writer.

    • wingmother Says:

      A too-belated response to such a kind comment. Thanks, I so appreciate it. It’s very validating as I stumble across this new terrain without benefit of a live audience to tell me how I’m doing!

  2. Aliess Says:

    Dear Liz,
    Thank you so much for the beautiful way you share your story. I am happy for you and Elihu and will look forward to reading more of your posts. You!
    Blessings & Hugs,

  3. theflashcook Says:

    Dear Liz,
    Just wanted to say hello and that I’m so happy to have found your blog and to read how your story has evolved. A newly single mother as well and grew up in Dekalb for a stint (not much to miss there other than the corn festival!). :)

  4. you have such a pretty way with words. loved it..loving being here.

  5. Robin Says:

    I came onto your site through your latest post, and was going to comment on that–I too very much understand, I lost my dad tragically almost 2 years ago, and he was way too young. I cling to a few emails that I go back to every now and again, but wish I had that voice to listen to again… Anyway, I too am a country-gal-transplant w/ and 8 1/2 year old boy who loves creatures and birds and various critters I have learned to live with and love too….will follow you and look forward to your posts and your journey…

    • wingmother Says:

      Can’t believe I never replied to you… So very sorry about your dad. I lost my last voice mail from him when my ex changed the phone plan w/no notice. Another heartbreak. There’s no substitute for hearing the voice. On we go… Hope you and your son are doing well these days…

      • Robin Says:

        Hi and thank you! that’s really tough, to lose that memory through no fault of our own. So wish I still had one of my dad, although there are a few little things I still keep around, like old emails and I still have his name on the caller ID when my mom calls…..funny little things like that can help keep them with us just a little. Hope all is well with you too!

  6. Mike Lair Says:

    What a moving story. Just found your blog and your backstory has me hooked. Thanks for sharing!

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