The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Twin Bumps April 15, 2014

I have never been a fan of the expression ‘baby bump’. I don’t quite know when it became commonplace in our pop culture, but all of a sudden, it seemed to be everywhere. I’d thought it would pass, but no. All of a sudden, bumps of all kinds began to appear in rags all types. Something of a snob when it comes to certain word use, I myself had no plans to use the word ‘bump’ for anything other than describing a flaw in the pavement, but eventually I succumbed. It just seemed the perfect term for whatever it was that both Elihu and I came to have on the very same spot on our noses one week in August of 2008. The month in which our twin bumps were born.

IMG_1795Not sure if they’re evident here. We each have a spot on the right side of our nose, about level with the tip. His is clear (the same way in which mine started out) but mine has gotten a bit out of control. It’s large, bright red and may even have its own postal code by now.

Feb 2013 nose eggs dad 075 Here’s Elihu’s bump sometime last year.

Feb 2013 nose eggs dad 061Here’s mine – I can definitely see it. (Man, I can also see the weight loss of last year. Sheesh. Gotta start that all over again. A great disappointment. But I digress…)

Feb 2013 nose eggs dad 020We found two eggs with bumps too!

Feb 2013 nose eggs dad 042We kinda match up!

IMG_1797Just makin sure you know where they are.

Ok, I wouldn’ta made a big deal of this – as in looking up a local dermatologist and paying out-of-pocket to have the thing removed – only I kept nicking it and it would bleed a bunch, and then heal just a tad bigger than it’d been before. And I saw it all the time, right there, in my range of view, and it was becoming very annoying. Plus it was taking on a decidedly witchyesque sort of vibe. And in the end, it was the frank and uncensored comment made about it by a fifth grader that made the decision for me. Without a moment’s hesitation I picked up the phone and made an appointment to have it removed. I’d threatened to do so in the past, but Elihu was strangely sentimental about it and always asked that I not.

The back story on our bumps – take from it what you will – is kinda interesting I think. When I tell the story in front of my mother she likes to ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaahhh’ as if poking fun at its implication. Hey, all I know is this: in August of 2008, a couple of weeks before we planned to move to New York, I was giving my then five-year old son a bath and I noticed a new, translucent spot on his nose that hadn’t been there before. No big deal – gave it not a second thought. Not until a little later that week, as I examined my face in the mirror after a shower, I too noticed a small, translucent bump on the very same spot. ?? I immediately went to look at him again – and felt a small shock when I saw it again. We had identical bumps – in the very same place! I shrugged it off, but I can admit that deep down I wanted to believe it was some sort of physical manifestation of the bonding that was going on between us. Even at that time in our lives his father wasn’t around too often, and Elihu and I spent a good 90% of our lives just we two. So the bumps felt like a tiny physical reminder of our deep connection. Not like matching tattoos or anything, but the evidence was there for anyone to see.

During the time of our new ‘twin bumps’ I was experiencing the most frightening conclusion to the strange year that had come before. My husband was making plans with his girlfriend and their newborn son; now it was my turn to step up and be proactive on behalf of myself and my son’s future. The following week Elihu and I fled Illinois, never to return. Bonded in a new life to be sure. Of course then I had no idea how the future would turn out, but five years later I have a million reasons to be grateful for our second chance. Not the least of which is getting this crazy thing off my face! Neither Elihu nor I are the least bit sentimental about it any more – and mine has become a nuisance. Sheesh. We’re bonded already… now can we get this silly thing off of my nose?

mid April 2014 576So poor Bruce, the guy doing the procedure – he had to endure my ceaseless chatter the whole time. I hate things like this. Much rather watch a surgery on myself (done that) or see my wisdom teeth come out (that too), but this needles-and-electrodes-in-your-face thing just kinda freaked me out. He was kind and gave me a topical which he says he doesn’t usually do first. But I guess he acquiesces for wimps like me.

mid April 2014 578Not digging the preliminary topical shot. But I appreciate it for sure.

mid April 2014 587

Now he’s doing the cauterizing, which as I understand it is done by electricity. ? Medical folks, please correct me if I’m starting rumors here. You can smell your flesh burning. Kinda crazy.

mid April 2014 579Ah,  Bruce’s done. Phew. I can’t believe how worked up I got – I’m covered in sweat! Took less than three minutes. And thanks Lesley, for taking the pictures! Very sweet of both of you to put up with me. Yack, yack, yack.

bump gone 2014 002Here I am a few hours later. Some scabbing at the site (he zapped a second, budding young bump as well – 2fer Tuesday!), so I’m off to a good start. I no longer see a large red sphere out of the corner of my eye which makes me quite happy. Yeah, I’m a grateful gal. Whew! Glad to have this chapter concluded.

 

Wait for It… August 5, 2013

I mighta known that the woman who ‘reminded me of Queen Elizabeth’ in the previous post was not in fact, Marylou Whitney, as I had declared her to be. I chose to ignore the tiny voice that kept nagging this woman just doesn’t seem glamorous enough to be Marylou. And in addition to that hunch, this woman’s silhouette actually looked slightly familiar. The photo I had tried to enlarge showed instead Jane Wait, and son Charlie (president of the Adirondack Trust Company) sitting beside her. Jane was on the board of my father’s Festival of Baroque Music for years. I too was on the board with her. In fact, Jane Wait figured prominently In the summertime world of the Conants for over a decade. She did everything from pen checks to the Festival to help arrange tea and cookies for the intermission refreshments. When I was young, I didn’t see Jane in the larger, social scale of our town. She was just a kind, older woman who showed an interest in dad’s music.

Some memories, unrelated bits of the past come back to me… I remember attending a party at their lake house once, where I met actor John Houseman. I remember he wore a purple jumpsuit and kindly gave me an autograph. I remember learning that Mr. Wait had died in a fire in that house not many years after. I remember that Mrs. Wait also had a daughter my age with whom I got together a few times. I was never able to get into a groove with the girl, in spite of feeling as If I had given it my very best (and the distinct feeling that she had not met me half way). They had a summer house just a couple miles down our road. And I remember I once played piano for Caroline and her mother at their place; it was a blues tune of mine with a little hook in the chorus and a repeating, catchy riff. They insisted I didn’t write it, they both insisted that they’d heard it played before. As an adolescent girl I didn’t have the language to articulate that they were mistaking the form and style for the song itself. That this, being a blues song, shared a common structure and tonality with other blues songs. The moment even got a tiny bit confrontational. My emotional take-away is that Mrs. Wait just knew me to be lying. It changed the feeling in the air between us all. Hey – to be fair, they might not have thought about it another second, but for me, it was insulting, and it showed me I’d been diminished somewhat in their eyes. That afternoon may have been the last time the young Wait and I hung out. We were fundamentally different people.

And today, the Wait’s world and ours intersect in only the very tiniest of ways. Knowing Jane to be ‘getting up there’, I wrote her a Christmas card last year just to reconnect, and to let her know that while dad is losing a bit of his short term memory, he was still very much himself and retained that certain, recognizable twinkle in his eye. And that he sent her his warmest greetings. Jane, as a wealthy pillar of this community is something of a local celebrity, so I didn’t expect to hear back – but at the same time she’s also a real person whose day might be cheered to hear news of an old friend. It made me feel like I’d done something kind; sending the letter warmed my own heart.

Now I can replay the memory of Jane and son Charlie on Friday night, waving from their carriage to the throngs of onlookers, and it makes sense. They are a much more conservative-looking duo. And then when I saw the super-wide brimmed hats trimmed in flowers in that other carriage on the front page of the Saratogian, I got it. Yeah, now that’s Susan Lucci. Now that’s Marylou. And man, they look great. Good Lord, Marylou is 88! (Ms. Lucci, 67). “Hey dad” I said, pointing to the photo of Marylou on the front page, “this woman is your age!” My mother reacted with great agitation. “No she’s not!” she said, almost angrily. Then she began her version of ‘math out loud’… “eight from ten is two….” Sheesh. I looked at her, waiting for the punchline. “Your father is seven years older than me, and I’m 78” she said, her tone still vaguely angry. She clearly thought she was imparting new information. ?? “Yes, I know” I said, still confused. “Marylou was born in 1925!” she emphasized. Still confused. “She’s three years older than your father”. “Yes, I know that too.” I answered, still not seeing her point. “So yeah,” I continued, “she’s about his age. We’re talking three years’ difference.” She went on to demystify her emotional response…”You’ll come to to the point in your life one day when every year counts. You want to be given credit for each year you’ve made it.” She went on to explain with a smile on her face (I just hate it when she smiles when she’s clearly very upset. Ich, it makes me queasy) that when you’re a young child or an older person you cannot make such generalities about age. “When you’re your age, it’s ok. But not when you’re older. Absolutely not.” There was a distinct tone of martyr in her voice, as if she meant to impart that she’d worked and suffered on this planet for seventy-eight years, goddam it and she’d paid her dues… It was rather fascinating to see my mom get so worked up about such a seemingly tiny thing. Hm. Interesting. I’ve been called any number of ages with a good two decade spread, and don’t find it offensive either way. Why mom should find offense at this tiny generality was news to me. “I just mean she looks damn good. That’s all”. (Yeah, and now she looks three years better! I thought to myself.) I shrugged, indicating dad with my eyes. In his pajamas for the umpteenth day in a row, I’d hoped Marylou’s image might serve as motivation for cleaning up a bit. But this is a tired, old and oppressive household. No one’s putting on their Sunday best anytime soon.

I look back at the two beautiful faces on the front page of yesterday’s paper. Honestly, it’s hard to believe their ages. I’ve been told it’s all about the fillers – you know, the tiny injections to keep faces inflated… and man, if the technology exists to create such quality results, sign me up. I admit it, I’m one vain-ass woman, and I don’t wanna be an old lady! After a recent mid-life battle over ‘to color or not to color’ I think I can just end that discussion right here and now. Color. And filler up, too while you’re at it. Do what ya got to do. I realize I may not have the bankroll for the job, and my life isn’t exacatly fodder for the society pages. So I probably shouldn’t hold my breath. But I probably won’t go the conservative, poofy old-lady hair direction of Jane Wait either. I’ll probably end up somewhere in between. But that’s still a ways off. I can wait…

 

Upkeep October 1, 2012

It’s not without some guilt that I watch my beloved cable show “What Not To Wear”, because I’m often watching the show while wearing my high-rise mommy jeans and an ancient, cap sleeve t shirt with the slogan “Women who behave rarely make history” on it (ironically showcasing a slutty wild west sorta gal striking a less-than-liberated come-hither pose). I top the t with a unisex sweatshirt that I bought at a Walgreens in Evanston over a decade ago. I wear these two tops to bed just about every night. After I get out of bed, I’ll swap my nighttime sweatpants for the mommy jeans, but leave the tops on as I go outside to tend to the chickens. Then, what the heck, I’ll probably end up staying in the same outfit for the duration of the morning while I wash the dishes, tidy up and get the laundry done. I’m most likely still in this jeans/pajamas combo by lunchtime, which is when I pause to watch the show. Feeling guilty, I eat my sandwich and wonder if they’d at least let me keep my beloved barn jacket. I mean, I am a chicken farmer after all. This I need. But the high-waisted 80s jeans I am just plain ashamed of. They’d go in the can for sure, and I’d be glad of it. The only reason I even still have em is cuz nobody’s come around with $5,000 and a card ‘with my name on it’ for me to go and replace em with something nicer. And besides, they fit. Honestly, they’re all I have left from my old ‘fat’ clothes. (Feeling the euphoria of having lost 55 post-baby pounds, I stupidly tossed all my ‘good’ fat clothes. It kills me to think of the items I’d tossed which I could so use today.) The way I see it, every day I spend wearing these embarrassing togs brings me one day closer to the day when I’ll absolutely need to replace them with something better. Til then, I’ll pull my pants way up, my coat way down, and I’ll slink around town emitting my best possible ‘I’m invisible’ vibe… (btw – I do have a couple other pairs of jeans. Only problem is – over the last two years I’ve grown too big for em. Still can’t face it. I guess you could say I’m at a self-inflicted stalemate of sorts.)

Aside from the calamity of my high-waisted mommy jeans, there are some other elements of grooming and style which are becoming more of a challenge than ever before. New styles I can study; attractive clothing I can possess to some mildly satisfying degree. But the matters of skin and hair are a much more nebulous territory and the ‘solutions’ aren’t obvious. Nor am I even convinced that there are any solutions to be had at all. Dr. Sebogh can kiss my Midwestern ass. His rare melon extract is not responsible for Dekalb sister Cindy Crawford’s amazing skin. I’m pretty sure good skin is in her genes. And you can stop trying to convince me too, Miss Bertinelli… I don’t doubt that a topical treatment here and there might help, but the process presses on, no matter the speed. I’m up early enough today to have caught the beginnings of an infomercial designed especially for me. I’d like to think I’m too cynical for this crap, but apparently not. They have me in their sights, and I’m greatly disappointed in myself for leaving the program on as I go through my morning routine of coffee-making and egg-packing…

My skin has begun to change only in the tiniest ways, yet it’s enough to have me thinking. Until very recently I hadn’t given too much thought to my skin betraying my age; as I’ve said before, I feel like I’m doing ok in that department. As a result, I have strongly and egocentrically believed that my skin would always remain lovely, that my hair would continue to be as it has been for the past three decades. I have never, ever – til just about now – truly believed that things would change too terribly much. (Other people turn into ‘old’ people… other people...) Things – that is to say, my skin, my hair, my body, have been fine for the past thirty years. No huge changes. Well, at least no quick changes. Skin care commercials always seemed to be about so much over-priced bullshit to me. I could never even see a need. But now, I begin to wonder. Did I miss some sort of essential prevention routine? Was I too hasty? Might there be something to all this anti-aging hoopla? Might I slow it down just a skitch? The voice inside me tells me no, there’s nothing to be done but drink more water and keep a good, grateful attitude towards life. I believe that’s the real answer, but still, I can’t help but wonder if I might be missing a simple serum that could help me recapture the glow that I think I’m missing all of a sudden…

For now I let it all go – because I certainly haven’t the money to dabble, and anyway I don’t have a real need to get super-pretty in my current life. Pretty enough is just fine, and for now my skin is what it is. I’m more concerned today about the hair situation – the hair on top of my head, that is, but then again there’s also the hair below the top of my head to consider as well. But not to worry – I’m on it. I keep a vigilant, daily lookout in the rear view window of my car each morning. I keep my eyebrows nice and tidy, and I do a daily sweep of the face for errant stragglers. How humbling it is the first time one discovers an unprovoked hair appearing in the middle of a cheek or chin. No warning. Just one day, woah! – there’s a hair sprouting from your face where none has ever grown before. I used to have a really impressive hair which would pop up a couple times a year. It would stick out sideways from my face a good two inches. And it was beyond my comprehension that the thing would literally grow overnight. My husband jokingly called it my ‘curb finder’. Cute. Haven’t seen it in a long time now – but if it makes another appearance, you can bet I’ll pluck that baby out before I even turn the car on. Hair patrol is dicey when you do it alone though. It’s nice to have someone around who can catch you before you leave the house with one lone chin hair blowing your cover… It’s nice when someone has your back like that. And that’s one thing I do miss about Chicago; my regular visits to the Pakistani ladies on Devon who could henna your hands and remove every unwanted hair in one stop. They would snap their heads, make that ‘tssk tssk’ sound and tell me not to worry. “We make you beautiful” they’d say as they sat me down in a chair. Between my favorite eyebrow threading (movie star eyes every time) to lip wax and whole face thread I would leave glowing. Yeah, partly because of the sheer pain involved, but partly because I was restored. Beautiful once more. What fun it would be to experience that feeling again. To open the door of that tiny shop and step out on to the street with a light heart and hopes renewed. Can you imagine all that good feeling, generated merely from the removal of some unwanted facial hair? Mm. Crazy.

Facial hair well in hand, I turn my energies to the crowning issue of the day: what to do with my hair color? For under ten bucks, I mean. Last spring I popped for a real color job at ‘my gal’s’ place – and while it was lovely, it didn’t last. Roots came soon after. The lovely color she’d created was never again matched just right, and before long I was back down the road of $3 box color from (my shame doubles) Walmart. (But seriously, $3? How can you say no? How?) I waved the white flag and bought a coupla boxes. I’ll try mixing em maybe. Want that nice, warm brown. Won’t be brassy if I just put a little more finesse into it. Hm. Ok, roots are lighter. That’s wrong. Google it. Ok. That’s known as ‘root burn’. I can fix it. Next week we’ll try again. Hair keeps coming out lighter and lighter. And while I notice that aging female celebrities seem to choose lighter and lighter hair colors, I myself have been doing so unintentionally. My ‘real’ color – not seen in perhaps a good seven years – was always quite dark. Almost black. Originally my son’s hair was lighter, mine darker. Now, we’re the opposite. So finally, I will right this wrong. I will change things back to the way they should be.

Changed it. Oops. My hair sure is darker. (Secretly, I really like it. I feel like I’m about to go on tour…) My kid tells me it makes me look masculine. Like a rocker. (Secretly love this even more.) My gray is for once completely covered. That alone feels like success. But the color is flat. Definitely a box color. A color without any class. No depth. At least it doesn’t shine plum-ish or blue-ish when backlit. Maybe I should count my blessings. But it’s gonna be kinda hard to focus on the good when I have to face the world this week with hair that’s radically darker than any I’ve sported the past six months. If I’m going to get attention, I don’t want it coming to me in double-takes and long looks as people inwardly assess the subtle change about me today… I can remember getting haircuts and people thinking I’d lost weight instead – or even losing weight and people thinking I’d cut my hair. Funny how folks notice changes – even if they can’t quite figure out just what it is about you that’s changed….

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs lately. I’ve always been fascinated with the many different ways in which people live and think. I surprised myself by checking out a book by Kathie Lee Gifford. She seemed to come from such a different planet as me, and the opportunity to learn just how different a planet was too much for my curiosity to pass up. In reading, I learned that she is not stupid, she lives a life with much love, humor and gratitude, and I also learned that staying young-looking is very, very important to her. I guess it’s her job, right? It’s also a fundamentally different way of approaching life. When I heard what was involved with the surgical skin treatments she’s undergone in order to keep her face looking smooth and young, I was taken aback. Maybe even shocked. She lightened the stories with charm and humor, as if to forgive herself for doing something so hard-core – and vain. Wow. I couldn’t fathom doing anything like that myself. Could I? And if I couldn’t, was it simply a case of money? Was my growing interest in the appearance of my skin just an infant stage of her full-grown concern? If I were a few years older, and a few dollars richer, would I do something like this too? Would I? I’d like to think not – I’d really like to think it’s not that big a deal to me. But still, this whole new chapter of aging has me just the teensiest bit concerned as to how I’ll navigate through it all. And I will admit to one and all right here and now: the ‘Lifestyle Lift’ appeals to me. A lot. I’m sorry, but there is nothing like a good jawline. Never had one to begin with – so it might be nice to go out with one. !

My entire professional, pre-baby life was all about the look. Now I’m just content to own a pair of good mud boots and a sturdy farm jacket. Last few years I haven’t had much occasion to get out. To represent, as it were. But now with Elihu’s new school, looks like I can’t hide the way I would have liked. So I’m trying to shift gears these days. Still don’t have a game plan, but I have a goal. I gotta get it together. Gotta find some pants that fit, gotta make sure my face is tended to, gotta make sure that I drink enough water and stretch in the mornings.

Gotta keep up with the upkeep.