The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Wake November 29, 2013

My ex used to say that I spent more of my life’s energy looking backwards than I did looking forwards. In part, I would tend to agree. Ever since I can remember – at around the age of eleven or so – I’ve always felt a low-grade, persistent sense of melancholia around me. (Maybe it started with my Grandma’s death, I don’t know. But an awareness of things becoming irreconcilably gone seems to have become part of my thinking around that time.) In writing this down I’m struck by the irony of it; I’m a fairly humorous gal and never shy about being vocal. I keep things light, and I always try my best to make a connection of some sort with every person I come into contact with. And yet… and yet I do a lot of things in life on my own, solo. I did as a kid too. Of course I’d play with children as a kid, and of course I interact with folks easily as an adult. But beyond the cursory and cheerfully polite interactions throughout my rather average, ‘small’ days, I don’t spend much time with friends. And this I suppose, is mostly by choice. Mostly, I enjoy being alone. I have a handful of friends in my life whom I love dearly yet only see them infrequently (that’s mostly logistics!). And that’s fine for me. But what is not so fine – what has me waxing melancholic at times – is the absence of some folks who have simply disappeared from the landscape of my life altogether. Having moved a thousand miles away from the town my heart still feels is home, I understand well how life changes, how it comes to pass that you may never again see some people who were once virtual fixtures in your life, but it’s still sad to know you’ve lost some forever. However, this is a connected, info-drenched world in which we live, and it’s that which gives me hope. In the back of my mind, I am comforted to know that if I try, I stand a pretty good chance of getting back in touch with the folks I miss.

This past week a Chicago-based bass player died. He’d been one of a handful of folks I’d tried to locate after losing touch, so hearing of his death just floored me. This man had a great sense of humor and he always had a twinkle in his eye. His passing has shocked a lot of friends who also hadn’t seen him around for a while. He’d just about dropped out of the music scene over the past couple of years as he’d had his hands full battling some personal demons. He was a relatively young guy too – but no matter, in the end he couldn’t get ahead of em. Seeing the Facebook posts popping up all day yesterday, I could feel the community’s need to share their sadness with each other. And precisely because so many of us live in far-flung places now, there can be no wake – no one gathering of friends to say goodbye to provide a healthy sense of closure we’d all probably like. And as I understand it, his family does not want to hold a memorial service either. I guess I can understand. It might be far too painful for them. I don’t know. But I do know that his death has got me missing my old friends, longing for those long-gone idealistic years as a young musician in Chicago, and feeling the added sorrow of living in a world where old friends don’t necessarily live in the same physical communities any more. It’s at a time like this when I lament having left my heart-home. But then I think of the dozens of dear friends who themselves have since moved on, away, some of them even living on the other side of the globe…

And it starts up again. Rob’s dying reminds me of other friends who’d also died too soon. And I realize I’ve lost a lot of friends. And I think of my parents – how must it feel to routinely hear of the deaths of their contemporaries? Just what is that place in one’s life like? To know that very few who remain are older than you, that most are in fact much, much younger, and that you are one of the few remaining of your age to still be here? Man, just how does that feel? If one goes into the experience, is it frightening as hell? Or does one just accept it, with a gradual dimming of the senses, a dulling of the heart in order to protect itself from such deep sorrow or fear? Or, perhaps (as is definitely not the case with many of my agnostic friends) does one take a certain relief in knowing that those who have left us have themselves gone to a much easier, happier place where we too will one day see them again? Either way it doesn’t change the fact that your friend is not here anymore. So our sorrow for their departure is honestly just about us. Our being sad is our being selfish. Which I think, from time to time, is actually a necessary thing. Crying it out is healthy and right.

But to live with a constant, low-grade sense of the sorrows of this world, to have this mist of melancholia float around you while you go through your day, that’s probably not terribly healthy. Yet I find myself haunted, as if by the merest vapor of a thought, throughout my days, by the faintest tugging… a vague, undefinable sensation of things not being as they should – and thereby not being quite as happy as they might otherwise. I can’t say that I’m sad, per se, but I can say that I do not always live in a heightened state of happy alert. Having said that, I readily admit to being a person who’s quick to find the humor or irony in a situation; I’m quick to turn a mishap into something useful. A lemonade from lemons sort of approach. But still. I suppose you might say that I’m a cheerful person – who knows better.

And I know better than to think Rob – or any of my friends who’ve passed on – would want me to mope around in a tearful funk over them for very long. Sure, I’d kinda expect my friends to cry at my own death, but by all means I want them to move things along when they’re done… Shake themselves back to life with a little Richard Pryor or Monty Python or Louis CK. Something, anything. Keep going. Cuz it’s gonna be alright. Somehow, it will be. But we just all gotta keep moving.  After we say our goodbyes, and dry our eyes, it’s time to wake up and get back to it.

In Loving Memory of “Jazzman”

Rob Amster

1467196_10202198725985741_948892721_n

Link to a performance of “The Waking” with Kurt Elling

 

Mingus Amongus September 15, 2013

Friday’s greatest news: Elihu’s bass had arrived. First thing after school we visited our friends at Saratoga Guitar to pick her up. Elihu was beside himself. It was almost better that he had a pal with him for an after-school playdate, as his head might have exploded with excitement if he didn’t have the distraction. Here are some pics from our weekend, from bass to birds to a visit with some civil war cats in the park. We try to be laid-back and under-scheduled, but life just finds us and fills in the cracks.

Bass Sept 2013 222Here we are…

Bass Sept 2013 217Here it is…

Bass Sept 2013 221…and there he goes! Man, this thing really is big!

Bass Sept 2013 237First, a little keva plank tower building…The plan is to knock it down with an RC car. Always lots of fun. !!

Bass Sept 2013 262Play date’s over, and Elihu’s classmate has gone home now, so time to see what a bass really feels like…

Bass Sept 2013 265It’s gonna take some finger strength for sure…

Bass Sept 2013 286Elihu’s not a very big kid, but I think he’ll make it work.

Bass Sept 2013 276Elihu looked at this picture and told me his form was all off – that his right arm was wrong. I have no idea, but shortly will probably know much more about such things.

Bass Sept 2013 298Later that evening Elihu picked apples while I made the crust. We had to celebrate with more home-made apple pie!

The next day we happened upon a garage sale and immediately found this VHS tape…

mingus 002So how cool is this??? We ran home, put it in only to find the entire tape had been re-recorded over with old episodes of Friends. Seriously? Sheesh. So then we watched some performances of Mr. Mingus on YouTube instead. Good enough for now. More to come for sure.

Bass Sept 2013 343Some chicken smooching.

Bass Sept 2013 380A moment with Specks.

Bass Sept 2013 386So crazy cute. Or maybe just so crazy. !

Bass Sept 2013 392We get into the car to go and the girls all follow Elihu.

Bass Sept 2013 399At the Civil War encampment in Congress Park.

Bass Sept 2013 403Some hands-on training

Bass Sept 2013 406and ready!

Bass Sept 2013 411No foolin.

Bass Sept 2013 412A handsome young soldier.

Bass Sept 2013 419Note the bullet-embedded bone in foreground. Ouch.

Bass Sept 2013 424The super old-timey music. Can’t say I knew any of the tunes, nor found much of it that interesting. Am I a snob? Hope not.

Bass Sept 2013 425It was fun to see so many in character.

Bass Sept 2013 455In the end, Elihu’s most interested in the animals.

Bass Sept 2013 461At the fountain locals call “Spit and Spat”.

Bass Sept 2013 517Checking out one of many springs that put the “Springs” in “Saratoga”.

Bass Sept 2013 521As ‘real’ as Saratoga water gets.

Bass Sept 2013 550Not quite too old for one last ride on the carousel.

Bass Sept 2013 541Mama’s waving in the mirror

Bass Sept 2013 555Off to chase one final duck

Bass Sept 2013 545Nice to see some lasting summer color.

Bass Sept 2013 561To the last spring of the day. We try to be open-minded, and we realize that this stuff’s supposed to be really good for you, but still… This one tastes, well, er, uh, kind of….  Ok, how about we just let the Department of Public Works tell you:

“A highly carbonated water of an Alkaline-Saline flavor noted for its high mineral content, and renowned as a digestive curative…”

Bass Sept 2013 569

We tried, really we did.

This was a laid-back weekend, but Elihu was still pooped at its conclusion. Even with all the fun things that we end up doing, it’s still Elihu’s wish that we might have just one weekend with no plans at all. With nothing at all to see or do, no where to go. Is that even possible? We’ll just have to wait and see…