The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Kitchen Sink Day November 24, 2013

As Elihu talks to his dad I sneak to my room for a break. I haven’t stopped getting things done since I awoke this morning, early as any weekday. And although I’m pooped, I feel a wonderful sense of satisfaction at all I finally managed to address. September and October tend to be busy months for me, and things hadn’t quite slowed down til now. There was a fall assembly for our school just this past Friday, and it had become an energetic marker of sorts in our calendar. Now that it was over, we found ourselves feeling a bit more free. Plus things had become just a tad more stressful this past week as I had somehow sprained my right wrist turning jump rope for the lower school girls. (Guess I’m not in top shape, huh?) I wasn’t sure just how bad it was until I absolutely tanked trying to play some Bach for a high school class. The lateral, side-to-side movement of the wrist that’s necessary for crossing over and under and thereby moving horizontally across a piano was nearly impossible. (I realized only after trying the piece during class how bad it was; in mere seconds I as covered in sweat. Apparently, I’d been playing – albeit badly – at a rather brisk tempo and had everyone quite out of breath trying to keep up! All I was aware of was that it hurt and I wanted to get through it as soon as I could. It was good of them all to have a sense of humor about it. I was a bit embarrassed.) It seems a bit better today; I favored the left hand as I cleaned and had the bad wrist tightly bound for most of the day. We’ll see. Tomorrow I’m on again. Thank goodness it’s a short week due to the holiday.

Oh the things I got done, and yet my mind won’t release the things I didn’t quite manage: re-caulking the bathroom, moving the nesting boxes, adding fresh bedding to the coop, cleaning the gutters, sorting out the junk drawer… I don’t fret too much, because the house, at the very least, looks tidy – and every last surface has been wiped down, every cobweb swept, every inch of floor vacuumed and/or washed, every doorknob and handle is ick-free, every framed object now crystal clear. I even took back the kitchen sinks, bleached and rubbed til they became white again! The wood has been oiled, the vinyl Eames knockoff chair has been Armor-Alled. I even walked around the outside of the house with a rubber mallet and coaxed those sticking windows shut for winter. Finally. Elihu’s collection of RC helicopters of the past few years had a good going-over and we ascertained which ones worked, and sadly, which ones could never hope to fly again. We dusted off his bird collection, we sorted thru all of his clothes, we made executive decisions, tossing books, games, things we once loved but had no need for now…. He was even able to set up the tank for his soon-to-be-arriving tree frogs (the next mom/son adventure here at The Hillhouse). Elihu’s been waiting for this shipment of vines, substrate and corkwood for weeks and he was thrilled to see his vision come together today.

We like to think we live simple lives, yet so much stuff finds us anyway… But today we tamed much of it. So much that had been taunting me for the past two months is now off the list. My summer dresses and clothes were removed from my closet and taken to my downstairs office (and gown emporium) for over-winter storage. Art materials for the Halloween costumes have finally made it down to the basement, too. Truth be told, the metaphoric ‘bump under the rug’ is gone from sight only because most of it has simply been taken downstairs to the basement, where it waits for the Next Phase. Nice thing is, it can’t taunt me quite as loudly if I’m not walking past it every day, ya know?

Now sorting it all out – that ‘Next Phase’ of which I speak – that is an enormous task that waits for my upcoming child-free week, a time which both Elihu and I are very much looking forward to. He’s joining his dad on the road in Orlando, Florida for some hotel-style Thanksgiving action with the boys in the band, while I am going to hunker down up here in the Great Northeast and Put Stuff Away. I know other folks must also face this job from time to time, but I swear it feels like my cross alone to bear, like I must be the only one in the world doing this fruitless-feeling activity. Somehow, stuff always finds its way into our house. And if mommy don’t put it away – it’ll likely still be sitting here by the time the kid goes off to college. Ah well, I got myself the right kid. He actually does notice when things have been put away, tidied. And he appreciates it. He’ll thank me for it without the slightest prompting. (And he enjoys actually being able to find things when he’s looking for them!) Yeah, he’s a good kid when it comes to sharing in the tasks as he’s able, and being grateful for what it is that I do. But still, he’s just not quite old enough to help out much when it comes to boxing it all up, labeling it and getting it put away just so. That, in the end, is still for now a strictly mommy job. Not for ever, but for now.

Feeling like something different for supper – something truly flavorful and fun, kinda like a reward for such a long and productive day – I threw together a bunch of things in a pot with lots and lots of spices. Chick peas, tomatoes, onions and garlic, olive oil, generous with the salt (my thing) plus the leftover chicken that I wasn’t able to partake of the other night – our first bird. I did not show her any respect the other night; just couldn’t bring myself to eat. Seeing her parts still made it too personal. But all chopped up and stewing in a tasty brew, this was somehow more easily acceptable to me. Mentally, I could eat this and feel much better about it; it wasn’t beckoning to be identified. Plus, truth be told, it was pretty good, which helped to distract me from my concern as to who it was I might be dining on. While I thought it delicious, it was a bit too much for my son, who complained that it was ‘thick with flavor’ (exactly what I was going for!) and ate it just cuz there weren’t any options. (Good kid. Eat what your mom makes.) As I’d been adding generous spoonfuls of this and that, simmering, tasting and finding it all working quite well, I laughed to myself when I thought of a name for this new stew. Rather like my day, it had a good deal of things in it, and rather like my day it brought a good deal of satisfaction. Chock full of just about everything I had on hand – but the kitchen sink. And so I dubbed my new concoction “Kitchen Sink Curry”. If only we had some mango pickle! (This also reminded me of a friend who, years and years ago when digital keyboards were in their infancy, had dubbed a custom-made sound of his the ‘kitchen sink’ patch, for similar reasons. Cute.)

Dinner done, dishes done, laundry done…. well, almost. A small, non-threatening pile remains on my bed. I’ll knock it out in no time. Might be a good idea to see how well the right hand’s working on the piano, but the house is so quiet that I don’t think I’ll manage that tonight. I’ll get the last of the clothes put away, hit ‘publish’ on this post, then finally, snuggle down into my bed feeling pretty good about this day on which I got just about every last little thing done – including the kitchen sink.


Fallout May 15, 2013

Just how on earth does everyone else do it? A busy week, food to prepare, laundry to wash, school projects to complete, calls to return… Never mind the added inconvenience of a toilet that no longer flushes, a severe lack of counter space on which to prepare said food – and homework assignments which continue throughout. Oh, and violin practice. Yeah, right. Seriously, how does everyone deal with all of this… life? The other day Elihu himself mused aloud “I wonder how families with five kids manage. How do they get everything done? Imagine five kids to feed, five kids doing homework and then actually getting all of them getting to bed!” I was impressed that he’d made such an observation. Not that his mother hasn’t encouraged such thinking – I’m a frequent self-mutterer, ever in search of that missing piece of information. Other households can’t be this chaotic, this cluttered and un-picked up, can they? Maybe. The other day, utterly exasperated with the barrage of crap all about me, I complained to my mother as I waved an arm toward the kitchen table which was piled high with the detritus of a life fully lived. “Is everyone’s house such a mess? I don’t remember things looking like this when I was growing up. Did they? Did I just forget?? I cannot believe life needs to be like this!” She was uncharacteristically unphased by my frustration. In a surprisingly matter-of-fact tone she told me that she thought that yes, other households probably did look like this. Then she added that that’s what life looks like. Still, I wonder. Really?

I like right angles and clean surfaces and find great joy in knowing that things have been put in their proper places, like with like. In fact, a tidy house gives me enormous pleasure. If you are familiar with the characteristics of the Zodiac signs, then you may know that this is a hallmark of the Taurus. A love of things beautiful, of home, of things comfortable. Stability and domestic peace are top priority for the bulls. I feel myself to be quite definitely Taurean by these standards. And when my home is a scattered mess of stuff, I simply can’t feel true peace. Now I realize that if it were indeed ‘true peace’ that I was experiencing, it would have no requirements and no conditions. If I were truly a woman of inner balance I suppose a sloppy house would not stand in the way of a contented soul. But sadly, I am quite linked to the state of objects around me, and as things are now, inner peace is a long way off.

Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how it is that other people live. What are they content to accept? To let go of? How differently might they tolerate the same conditions? As I wonder, I feel a persistent, low-grade guilt; I must be a wimp. I don’t even have a day job, yet I almost feel as if I can’t keep up. How do folks with friggin day jobs handle life? I wonder… does it help to have a partner? Once, years ago, I mused to my mother that I felt like a single mother. “All mothers are single mothers” she replied without the slightest bit of irony. Yeah, there’s just so much work to be done. But still, I can’t let it go… am I missing something? Sometimes I wonder how different things might be if I had a dishwasher. I cook each and every night. Takeout’s not a remote option on our budget (oh how very different from the last life I knew in which restaurants were part and parcel of daily life). And for some reason, cooking for two seems to involve just as many pans, dishes and utensils as does cooking for a bigger brood. Limited counter space means that things get quickly out of hand if not cleaned up promptly. But honestly, I just can’t find the energy to deal with it night after night. Thankfully, Elihu’s big animal report is done and I’ve learned all the music I need to for the eighth grade play, so our load’s a little lighter. Kind of. Got both a paycheck and food stamps today and so went shopping. Nothing sexy, just toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, bread, vegetables and such, but now there it all sits, taking up half my kitchen floor, waiting to be put away. Ich. Today I am pooped. Fell asleep during a rehearsal this afternoon, and frankly, I’m not sure where the energy to write this post is coming from (I enjoy it, maybe that’s part of it…). I just wish I could catch up. I was going to take a picture of the mess on my kitchen table but didn’t even have the energy for that. Hell, you probably know what a big mess looks like anyway. (Or do you?)

In my mind I’m going over the easiest dinner possible. How I can pull it off without washing anything, without moving anything or putting anything away. Then I’m thinking about bed. Oh how I want to go to bed now. But then there are chickens that need tending, chicks too. Elihu helps, yes, but in the end, it’s mommy that gits her done. As I write this in fact, he’s searching the house up and down for something. He can’t find it, but most likely I will. Thankfully, he understands I’m not feeling up to full mommy duty right now. He’s trying his best. And in a minute, after another moment of pause in my chair, I’ll pull myself together and do the same. I’ll bust it out. I’ll find his charger, I’ll make supper, I’ll put some things away. And then… finally… I can fallout.