The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Snowy Valentine February 14, 2015

Elihu sits beside me on the couch. We’re both engrossed in our own activities, but stop now and then to say “Love you” to one another, just because we can. We’re content to be snug at home after another full week of activities. Tomorrow he leaves to be with his dad for winter break, so me, I’m a bit sentimental today. But Elihu’s just plain happy. He’s looking forward now to seeing his father again. As good as our relationship is, I still think it’s important for him to have some time and space apart from me. And I’ll make good use of the time too; his time away will give me the chance to file the massive piles in my office, do my taxes, prepare lesson plans and tend to the Studio. Lots to do, few pauses in the ongoing agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I might be busy, but I’m grateful for it all. Still not sure how the coming years will pan out; from where I sit tonight, my future is one big unknown. But whatever happens, I’m so happy to be sharing it with my dearest Elihu, my one true valentine.

IMG_1936Pulled into the grocery store parking lot and saw this outside my door. Sweet.

IMG_1710It’s not hearts I see each morning when I start the car in sub-zero temps, instead it’s lovely geometric designs in the frost on my windshield.

IMG_1237We visited mom’s place so Elihu could fly helicopters with Uncle Andrew (he lives down the driveway). Mom’s working on the New York Times crossword puzzle and watching the opera. Classic weekend stuff.

IMG_1239The two of them talked endlessly about accelerometers, flybars and swashplates. It’s “Geek” to me. !

IMG_1254Here’s the old craft that’s back in the air again thanks to some new replacement rotors (a thank you to friend Gene for assisting with that!).

IMG_1160Elihu and Andrew enjoy the vertical space of the great room.

IMG_1269Look what mom sees routinely outside her kitchen window. Turkeys and deer side by side.

IMG_1325Mom tells me the snow is even deeper today, one week later; she says it’s up to the deer’s bellies.

IMG_1277The Studio can be seen off to the left outside of the same window.

IMG_1336Drama erupted as I accidentally knocked a glass of water onto Andrew’s bag. He flew into a frightening rage, violently knocked over a chair and left for a few minutes. He came back and behaved as if nothing had happened. I guess that he had a restorative nip of booze to help him keep his cool. In his tirade he had screamed that I did everything I could ‘to fuck him up’… His situation is so sad, and we’re all powerless to help. Mental illness – and the self-medicating that goes with it – is a tricky thing. Laws that are meant to protect individual’s rights end up preventing others from helping those who can’t help themselves. Elihu’s heart is broken to see his uncle like this. He loves him anyway. Good kid.

IMG_1339And so our visit ends and we take our leave while mom sets about fixing the busted stool. Sigh.

IMG_1415Back at home we make a go at sledding the big hill. A no-go. It was way too deep. Shoulda started grooming our run before all this snow fell.

IMG_1531After some major effort, even lil man threw in the towel.

IMG_1510Then he tried his hand at something that he’s always been good at – catching birds. Here’s our dear Austin, the goofy guinea fowl. Both boys are red-cheeked!

IMG_1720While Elihu’s at school, I pay a visit to my friend Ken. Here’s the view from his current digs. Classic Saratoga.

IMG_1724Another fine Saratoga home.

IMG_1723One more view. Saratoga Springs often reminds me of a little HO train set village.

IMG_1742Ken shows me his current project.

IMG_1741I guess snowy weather is good for staying inside – and painting. But of course, you have to know what you’re doing to produce something like this. Seriously, how talented is this guy? Amazing.

IMG_1948After school we check out the logger’s progress.

IMG_1939Look at the size of the tires on this skidder! And the chains are just massive.

IMG_1963Every year we host these folks when they perform at the Flurry – a dance festival in town that is now in its 28th year. Musicians and dancers come from all over the East coast. It’s one intense and immense event.

IMG_1967Sherry baked this gorgeous bread for us!

IMG_1971They also brought us some homemade maple syrup. !!!

IMG_2070Packed up and ready for anything.

IMG_1984Here are John and Matthew – aka the Swing Peepers – doing their thing for the kids. It’s entertaining for all (see a short video clip at the end of the post).

IMG_1997Elihu sat in on his djembe with an Irish jam. Some purists might not have dug it too much, but no matter, he played just fine.

IMG_2027Playing his drum was fun, but he was really jonesin to fly. Dylan stops to check it out.

IMG_2031Dylan introduced us to his dad, Amadu, who’s from Senegal. He made this enormous kalimba himself.

IMG_2034Dylan and Elihu check out a concertina.

IMG_2038Here’s Paul Rosenberg, one of the Flurry festival’s founders. He calls and leads community trad dances throughout the greater Albany area. I guess you might say he’s a local treasure.

IMG_2056This is why Elihu’s here; an African drumming workshop led by Ubaka Hill. She made it a fun experience and it left Elihu in a fantastic mood which lasted all afternoon.

The Swing Peepers sing for the kids and their parents.

Elihu plays his djembe with the Irish jam session.

Ubaka Hill leads a room full of percussionists in the final number (check out the dynamic changes near the end).

IMG_2076After all of that we were starting to get hungry… a special day requires a special meal. To the Indian buffet!

IMG_2114Finally, we’re back at home on a snowy winter’s night. Me and my little Valentine.

 

Solo February 16, 2013

Here it is again. My time. My time alone, without my son. My time to get things done, to enjoy some respite from always being needed. For the most part, it’s a good system. I enjoy having my son during the school year, and for breaks he stays with his father. Yeah, it’s worked out pretty well over the past few years. But the transition from mother to solo human is always a little poignant. I always feel a little lost in the world after Elihu leaves. Empty of destination, of purpose…

The train that he and his father take to Chicago leaves Schenectady at 7:30 p.m, and the drive home is dark and quiet. A contrast to the few hours that precede it; these are the handful of hours that we three get to spend together as a family. Elihu so looks forward to those visits, and me too. In spite of the history, we three always share laughs and end up enjoying ourselves. It’s just enough time together to make me wistful, to make me miss the life we didn’t end up sharing. Perhaps the drama of goodbyes shared on a train platform heighten my vague sense of sorrow, I don’t know. Why even think like this?  Everything is as it should be. Yet as I begin the long drive home I start to feel very alone. And I begin to think…

I begin to sink into the feeling of what it is to be alone on the planet. Of what it feels like just to be me – to be me on my own, undefined by my relationship to anyone else. It’s hard to conjure, to really get it. And it’s then that I realize how very much my life is tied to my son’s. My very identity seems to depend upon him. It frightens me to think of myself alone, without him. And honestly, I don’t know if it’s healthy to depend so keenly on my young son. I fret over the idea for a while. But after a time I relax; this is, after all, my role right now. Single mom. And it takes almost all of me to be that. One day, this chapter too will close and a new one will begin. Oh oh. I consider this new idea, and begin to sense a low grade panic growing. What the hell will I do then? Just what exactly is it that I do if I’m not a mother? Oh no – this worries me. I really don’t do anything. My life is all about being a mother! Back in the day I was a musician – but that was all about the look, the lifestyle… it was very much about the culture of youth and beauty. I can’t revisit that life, no, I’ll need a new one… But I can’t follow that line of thought too long, because I can feel the stress rising. Instead I do my best to quiet my mind and soon it’s just me again, the darkness and the road. Guess I’ll just have to figure it out when I get there. For now, the challenge at hand is the week that stretches out in front of me. For some reason, the space ahead seems much emptier than usual. And I think I know what might be contributing to it.

On Valentine’s day I learned that I’d lost my beloved new job as pianist at Elihu’s school. It was unexpected, and frankly, due to a situation out of my control. No hard feelings exist, yet I’m left rather dazed by the sudden change. The sudden emptiness in my life. Sure I’ve got projects that can use my attention, I’ve got parents that could use my attention, and I’ve got a brother that needs medical help and counseling, something that only I can help him achieve – but it’s not the same. I had a job I loved, my first real job in a decade; I did what I loved and got paid for it. For once things seemed to be falling into place. I played music every day. I saw my son every day, I saw those wonderful kids every day. I got to play sweet little classical pieces, I got to improvise, I got to play the most delicious piano I’d touched in years… and now, it’s gone. Poof. But I can hardly feel sorry for myself when the woman whose classes I accompanied has lost her job too. I haven’t lost what she has, but still… It makes my future feel a little emptier than before.

Tonight I have house guests, and although I don’t think I’m up to the socializing that goes with being a host, it might be for the best that they’re here. It might help to distract me from my dark mood. They’re not home yet, and likely they’ll be in late. I probably won’t see them tonight. Good. That’ll give me some time to switch gears. Tomorrow I may join them along with several thousand other folks at the Flurry – the local dance festival which brings together musicians and dancers of every age, color, size and shape from all over the East. Because I’m hosting musicians, I’ll enjoy a highly coveted pass. So I’ll go. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to hear all that wonderful live music and watch all those amazing dancers. Yeah, I’ll go. Just not sure if I’ll dance. I don’t know. Not sure I’m ready to swing a partner quite yet.