The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Falling Back October 24, 2012

Just too much to do. Although it seems as if I hurry about my errands, chores, jobs and sundry business with head bowed, eyes on my toes, the car door, the wheel, the road… I do in fact look up long enough to notice the trees about me gradually thinning out their leaves. The maples at my place have hardly a leaf left. Only the giant beech has held onto its orange-yellow leaves. And as for the rest of our property, it’s beginning to look barren. So in driving to school, I change my route; I go the longer way ’round so I might enjoy the massive spills of yellow covering the grand lawns of the North Broadway mansions, and I feel some relief that the bright colors of autumn are not entirely gone. But mostly. We’re reaching that time when the silhouette of our environment will be changed for good. Or at least for a good long time.

This is always a densely packed time of the year for us. Each year I make Elihu his own bird costume, and this year he desires to be an exotic and long-extinct flying creature (Quetzalcoatles) and this requires a hefty investment of time. It also takes a good bit of research, a lot of enthusiasm, a bit of cash (don’t ask) plus lots of love and good humor to pull it off. Halloween is next week, in fact there is a party coming up on Sunday, and I must have it all ready by then. Tomorrow is an early morning and a long day. So is Friday. Most nights I find the resolve to pull myself out of bed in the middle of the night and spend an hour or two working on his costume. But tonite I am pooped. I just can’t find it in me.

For that matter, I hardly feel I have it in me to sit and write a quick post. But here I am, checking in, saying hello and hopefully, falling back to my bed again.


Kaboom! June 4, 2012

Well. Everything had settled nicely, in spite of Fareed’s having put ‘summer shit’ in the subject line of his emails. I understand his frustration. I do. But finally it seemed we’d hit upon a win-win. Elihu would remain in Saratoga for the 4th of July, and then he would spend a good, long vacation in Dekalb with Fareed later in the summer. Then, in looking more closely at Fareed’s open-ended, still-not- defined-by-exact-dates proposed visit, I realized that he might well be here with us on the 4th. While his visiting is always welcome, and we usually have a fine time (I make a nice dinner or two, we have a little family excursion, etc.) I knew that for some reason, Elihu had liked spending the holiday just me and him. So in the spirit of this full-disclosure, give-the-kid-his-voice sort of debate we’d entered into since last night, I thought it better to address it now than later. So I did. Guess I should have prefaced it with some explanation, because the response was anything but friendly. Really. And I was stopped. It’s stuff like this that has my heart racing whenever I see an email from Fareed. I hate this stuff. Man I do. Guess I need thicker skin.

I, of course, will not copy his email here, but suffice to say that his main points were these: 1) I am deeply selfish 2) Waldorf is selfish 3) I have lots of bad karma coming my way because of points 1 and 2. Man. Seriously??  I’m not good with this kind of crap. Plus he says it all in a facetious tone, which makes it even sicker to hear. Am I so selfish?? I honestly don’t think so. But he does, which has me wondering – what would he have me do to think otherwise? I know him pretty well, so I can guess… He’s told me before to get a job. Ok, a job between 8 and 1:30. Hmm. That I don’t have to work nights or weekends. No place will accept those terms, I know, I’ve applied to them all! Hmm, maybe I should think outside the box… I know! I can teach piano lessons! That way I can be home with my child, plus  make some income! Obviously, that’s not good enough for him. Hey, if I weren’t a single, full-time mom, there are lots of things I might do. But for now, they’re not options. But tell that to Fareed. He will not hear it.

What else might I do to change Fareed’s seeing me as a selfish, mean bitch? Letting him stay with us on the 4th? I really don’t care that much if he does or not. If that’s all it takes to calm this fire, maybe I’ll just tell Elihu it ain’t worth making a fuss over. I think he’ll understand.

Fireworks, indeed. Blew up in my face, they did. Can’t wait for the 4th…


Here is the response I sent to his nasty email. Sigh. Are my feelings clear?? Hope so.

Look, Elihu and I have our thing – and you and Elihu have yours. !  I’m not being mean – come on – give me a break!! You’re always welcome when you’re here – I always make sure to have good food and make you comfortable. Where is this coming from??? Elihu expects it will be the two of us here on the 4th – he’s talked about that before. I’ll talk with him again about it if you want – all you have to do is ask nicely!! Why this venom?? I’m just speaking up for our son! There’s no personal attack on you here, I assure you!

That you still can’t see the incredible opportunity and gift that Waldorf is (I do realize you’re not here to witness it) and continue to bring it up as if it were some horrible mistake or selfish move on my part (?!) – that itself shows inherent selfishness. I am Elihu’s advocate, so I had to get him into that school. Plus I also encourage his relationship with you. It blows my mind that you don’t appreciate either one of those things.

After all the heartbreak and shit you’ve put on me, that you can even get angry at me is evidence that you’re lost to reason.  And I thought we were all three finding a happy balance. I was thrilled we’d finally found a happy solution for this summer. Had we not?? Damn. I couldn’t be more surprised by your venom.

Karma? I think I’m doing a good job of playing nice, building a good life for our son, and respecting your needs as a father. I look forward to my ‘karmic payback’ – because I’ll reap love and kindness. I know you will too, when you’re free of all this hate vision and can see that none of my actions are about anything but creating a good life for me and our son. My needs are modest, my requests of life are few. My objective is not to break anyone’s heart, but to see everyone feel respected and satisfied.

Can’t you please be nice? I’m trying my best, I hope you can do the same.


161 Years Old January 6, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Farm Life — wingmother @ 11:40 am
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Today, January sixth, is both my mother’s and my father’s birthday. Together, they are one hundred and sixty-one years old. (They share a birthday, yet are seven years apart.) We have nothing planned to celebrate; I think the recent soiree at our house on Monday will essentially have served that purpose. I do think mom’s planning on the two of them going out to a good supper at one of Saratoga’s finer restaurants – but that will likely be tomorrow, as she puts in a full day of work today. I wish I had something special for them, but alas, I don’t. I am going to give each some comfy new pairs of socks. Really, who doesn’t like new socks? And at their age, it’s highly likely that they haven’t been out to purchase any in quite a while. My mother seems to have quit buying new clothes a few decades ago… And my father’s new acquisitions depend upon my mother taking up the charge. So it’s likely neither’s had new socks in quite a while. Although it might seem I’m ‘under-gifting’ them, I believe my modest gifts will be thoroughly enjoyed.

Today is also Epiphany, or the day when the three wise men finally reached the manger and gave baby Jesus their gifts. I’ve always thought this day made much more sense as a gift-giving holiday than the date we celebrate. It’s hard for us Americans to understand that much of the Christian world is celebrating Christmas today. In our family, partly because of mom and dad’s birthday – brother Andrew’s is nearby New Year’s Eve as well – we didn’t think of the season as being completed until this day. In a purely secular way we simply thought of this as the logical conclusion to the season. I like that too. Coming to a screeching halt with the holiday – either the 26th or January 2nd – feels much too abrupt for me. I like to coast down easy after all of it… and I can take down my tree and decorations with much less frustration and a better sense of closure and satisfaction when I do so upon full completion of the anniversary of the events we purport to celebrate. Somehow, it makes me feel in better step with the rest of the world. My life just breathes better when I wait til this day to remove the festive red and green. Good-bye Christmas, thank you for all the spirit you helped us to express. Good-bye New Year’s Day, thank you for restoring our sense of hope.

Happy birthday, my beloved parents. Thank you for all that you’ve helped me to be. I wouldn’t be right here, right now if it weren’t for you. Thanks for teaching me about art, music, nature and everything in between. I love you both so much.


Remembering May 30, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 1:21 pm
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“So what is Memorial Day really about?” Elihu asked me yesterday. Hmm. I gave him the simple answer for the time being, and told him it was a day on which we remembered the people from our country who served, fought and sometimes died in the wars. A churning of conflicting thoughts on the subject began inside me. I needed to get to this one. I needed to express my feelings to him, as mixed as they are, on war and the culture around it. For now it would wait, but this conversation would happen soon.

The Fourth of July, Memorial Day and such patriotic occasions always bring forth a swirling mix of ‘yes, buts’ in my mind. Yes, we should remember, bless and thank the people who served, but weren’t these wars for the most part just crazy, vain and wasted efforts created by a few insane leaders? When my son was born, we’d just stepped into the mire of a fresh new war. I remember being on bed rest in the final days of my pregnancy, lying on the couch and watching in disbelief as bombs were dropped in the far-away Middle East on cities and towns that no doubt contained women just like me, in the last stretch of their own pregnancies. I was stunned and heartsick. My baby would be born as a new war began. Shock and awe indeed.

Shortly after Elihu was born I had a what folks these days like to refer to as ‘a light bulb moment’. It was more of a paradigm shift, really. Now holding in my arms a tiny babe, a creature that manifested pure vulnerability and love, I could no longer remotely even begin to justify – or understand – war.  I watched George W. on the screen and searched for the father in his eyes. How must he have felt the moment he first beheld his two tiny daughters? Did his heart truly stir with that certain, specific and intense love that only one’s own child can inspire? And if he did understand that love, as I’m sure he must have, did his own feelings about the children everywhere in the world not profoundly change as well? I mean, just how can he possibly sanction the bombing of a community that will no doubt result in the absolute terror and physical pain of young children, and the loss of their beloved parents?? As a parent it was sealed for me now. I could no longer accept the need for war. I could no longer justify the injury or death of innocent people – of any people. I could no longer keep their tender humanity vague, fuzzy and cloaked by geographical distance. Everyone, every last person, is someone’s baby.

When I lived in Dekalb, Illinois I would attend the town’s Fourth of July celebration in their beautiful municipal park, on the sweeping lawn under the canopy of ancient elms and oaks. The beloved and white-haired band leader of the town would lead the orchestra under the large, clam shelled roof of the bandstand. Fireworks would accompany the final number, the classic 1812 Overture. Before that flashy conclusion the orchestra would perform a medley of armed forces themes. The conductor asked that those who’d served should stand and be recognized when the theme of their branch of the armed services was played. As soon as the new familiar melody sounded, men all over the audience would stand. I was amazed at my own feelings in witnessing this. It was touching, it was tearful, it was good. I wondered at all the personal stories behind these figures. At the conclusion of the theme, the audience would clap for these heroes, and then they would sit, to be followed by the next group of soldiers. What really stuck with me was one man in particular. I’d passed three Fourths of July there in that park, each time in my own little spot by a certain tree from which I could easily see the stage, yet could avoid the thick of the crowd. Beside me, about twenty feet away, I would see the same man, sitting in his lawn chair, bedecked with pins and emblems on his casual summer outfit. He sat alone. He registered nothing on his face. Yet each year, when the Navy theme played, he slowly rose from his seat and placed his hand on his heart. I saw in his face, read in his entire body, a story of intensity. What his story was I will never know, but the meaning was hard and real. I watched nothing but him, as carefully and tactfully as I could so as not to make him aware of my attention. But nothing could have distracted him from the world he was reliving in that moment. The first year I saw him I was intrigued. My second year there I was happy to see him, the third year I was fascinated. Talking to people is usually quite easy for me, but as I pondered how to approach him, what to say, how to even begin, I just gave up. It just didn’t feel right. My witness was enough. Enough to honor him, enough to open me up to a world I’m usually quick to disdain.

I think of that man now each Memorial Day, each Fourth of July. Through the ether I send him my love and my gratitude for the actions he took, but mostly I thank him for the conviction of his beliefs – the sense of real purpose that inspired him to serve in spite of the fear and danger he faced. I myself believe that not one war since the Revolutionary War has been about the protection of our country’s freedom. In my mind, this man served a false cause, a reality contrived by very few, but bought, sold and believed by the multitudes. The need to protect was real for him, and so it was real on some level. But for me, war can never be real. It is a game played with living chess pieces, flesh and blood pawns that serve not their own interest, but those of the men choosing the strategies, making the rules. The only rules on our tiny planet should be to live, love, encourage the same in other creatures, and look for understanding when there is none. If everyone had the same shared goals of helping their neighbors to live as well as possible and if no one could find it remotely tolerable to see fellow earth-citizens living in lack, war would not be an option. If these truly were core, unshakable beliefs in each person, if we treated the welfare of others exactly as our own, then we wouldn’t need a Memorial Day. Many may say I’m naive, that it’s not that simple. But I believe it is. When one is tuned in to one’s connection, one’s similarity to all others, one knows that war is simply not a choice. Sadly, the folks we look to for rule-making and value-setting have a lot of airtime and money. These influential people have lost their sense of connection to fellow humans and found instead a malignant yet seductive substitute for it in the realm of power and self-protection, which in their minds fully justifies such violence. It looks like it’ll be awhile yet before we can experience a world-wide paradigm shift together. But it’s coming. This internet world will reach further and further, connecting more people than we can imagine today. When we are all finally able to see each other, to connect, to witness each other’s sameness, each other’s humanity, then we will all realize the illusion for what it’s been all these insane years.

But my sincere thanks and gratitude go out, nonetheless, to all those who willingly accepted the duty of service in the armed forces. And my love goes out to all the families torn apart by the loss of those who chose to serve.

God Bless America. God Bless Afghanistan. God bless every last one of us. Even George W.