The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Present for Good Night August 30, 2013

I’d come in to Elihu’s room to say goodnight. Although I hadn’t planned on reading to him (the night before I’d read Oscar Wilde’s very amusing “The Canterville Ghost”), I had a feeling there’d be no short goodnight. There almost never is. Elihu always has something on his mind. And tonite, I must say, he surprised me. He was lying on his side in the dark room, facing the wall. ‘You know, I just don’t get it. It seems most people miss the very reason for their lives.’ Huh? I thought. Where is this one going? I put my hand on his shoulder and asked if he could tell me what he meant by that. He responded in a slightly agitated tone. ‘One should always acknowledge the present before moving on to the future’. I waited. Did I just hear him correctly? Elihu often came up with things that had me second guessing what I’d thought I’d heard him saying. ‘What do you mean, honey?’ I asked. ‘I’m not going to repeat it’ he said in frustration. ‘You heard me.’ Ok. He wasn’t in a great mood, but clearly he had something weighing heavy on his mind that he wanted expressed and out before he could sleep. So I waited.

‘Why is everyone so modest?’ he asked, but before I could ask what it was that he meant by that, he continued…. ‘If someone is good at something, then why don’t they just¬†admit it? Why does everyone seem to feel they can’t be successful at something? They’re missing the lessons they’re supposed to learn if they don’t just admit when they succeed!’ He sounded almost angry. Now I was able to ask him to help me understand him better. He went on to explain that he thought that before someone gave up on a hobby or a field of study he should pause first to assess all that he’s learned thus far. He said that he though everyone ‘in this culture’ was always in a hurry to move onto something new. He lamented that people seemed to be hard-pressed to celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy them. He wanted to know why it wasn’t accepted in our culture to admit that you were good at something. He cited this phenom kid banjo player he’d jammed with on the street the other night. Clearly this kid was more than just good. But when Elihu’d told Nathan he was good, Nathan just replied ‘I’m alright’. I offered that it’s never been – as far as I’d known – accepted in polite culture to flat out accept such praise without some degree of modesty. I also explained the idea of false modesty, and how that wasn’t really a great alternative either. ‘I think most people have a hard time admitting when they’re good at something.’ I offered. ‘Maybe the best way to accept a compliment and be polite too is just to say ‘thank you’. That way you’re accepting the truth, you’re enjoying your success, but at the same time you’re not being too full of yourself. I think Nathan will be more comfortable simply saying ‘thanks’ when he’s a bit older.’ Elihu was quiet for a moment. ‘Yeah. Guess saying thank you is the best thing to do.’ More quiet. ‘But I still think it’s very important to acknowledge when you’re good at something. To accept when you’ve done something well. Because if you don’t, you’re missing the lesson.’

Goodnight had become an occasion for pause and reflection to be sure. As we lay there in the dark, just staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars on his bedroom ceiling, I think we both found a tiny bit of closure to the day. I was lost in my own thoughts, trying to make mental notes in order to recall our conversation later, so that his bedtime wisdom might not be lost, but he was clearly still following the trajectory of his initial musing. ‘Ok, please don’t get mad with me, but can you repeat what it was that you first said just now?’ I asked him. He sighed, but he obliged me: ‘If you don’t acknowledge the present before moving on to the future – you miss the whole point of things. And that’s all I’m going to say.’ I repeated it several times over in my head before leaning in to kiss him. ‘I love you so, Mommy’ he said, looking into my eyes by the dim closet light. We hugged again, tightly, and in my heart I thanked him for choosing me. ‘I really love my present. Don’t you?’ I asked. ‘Yeah. I do.’

I got up to leave the room. As I shut the door I saw him turn to the wall again. He put his arms around his giant stuffed macaw, and he sighed.

Post Script – here’s a link to some video shot this past weekend on Travers Day in Saratoga Spring, NY, of Elihu sitting in with tenor guitarist Jesse Rock and banjo player Nathan Hanna… so much fun!


Fuzzy June 9, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , ,

The wave of yesterday’s Indonesian-style heat and humidity here in upstate NY was broken by an evening thunderstorm. We immediately opened all the windows to benefit from the cool breezes. While it made for good sleeping, the acoustic breach in our home also provided Elihu a direct line to the early morning birdsong outside his window, a sound which reached deep into his healthful rest to awaken him. Early. Very early. Five-thirty, to be exact. I looked up from my bed to see him standing there, smiling. “Do you hear them?” he asked, brimming with the thrill of a true birder. How could I not? I’d had an earplug stuffed into my upwards-facing ear. I too smiled. How could I not? It’s been Elihu’s constant dream to be up this early in order to hear the birds as they can only be heard at this hour, however on school mornings I refuse to wake him before 7:30 as he’s usually late to retire. I don’t want him fighting the nodding head thing in the middle of his day (that can wait til High School).¬† I also make no effort to wake him super-early on the weekends, as I don’t want to mess with his schedule too much. As I think of it it’s probably not he who needs the sleep, but me. Probably. Ok. We’re up. There are too many critters singing the delights of the pre-dawn hours to argue with. Where’s my robe…

It’s now approaching noon, and I’m wondering how that little birder of mine is doing. I am tired. I have much to do and cannot afford a mid-day lie-down. I will pour more coffee and muscle through, but what of Elihu? I pray he’s faring better than I am right now. Outside it’s back to jungle-like readings again, and inside the house is warming up. His recess will likely be inside, as we’d received a recorded message last night from his principal advising the kids drink lots of water and prepare for indoor activities at school today.

Maybe mommy needs to get to bed a little earlier tonite…