The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Red Truck Days March 8, 2015

It’s March, and that means it’s time for the Missoula Children’s Theatre to roll into town! Each year I play piano for this magical production, and although my son’s peers are no longer at the Greenfield Elementary School which hosts the program, I still have some young friends there – some have attended the Studio’s art camp, some are my piano students, some just friends and neighbors. These kids work incredibly hard all week, starting with auditions on Monday and ending up with a performance on Friday night – complete with lines, songs, blocking, choreography, costumes, makeup and sets. Whew! The whole shebang is made possible by two young and talented actors who bring the production to town in the back of the MCT’s famous red Ford 110 pickup truck.

Meanwhile, Elihu’s sixth grade class also had their annual class play this week, so you can understand it’s been a crazy-busy time for us both. Elihu had a generous role as the Muslim emperor in a play called “Crusader, Muslim and Jew”, which, as the title implies, explores the divides between the three religions and in the end (in the most convoluted, surprising twist you can imagine) highlights how ultimately we are all, most importantly, from the same human family. Lots of text to memorize for this one, but my kid’s got a magnetic mind for lines, so I didn’t worry for him. In fact, all the Waldorf kids are true whizzes at memorizing; they’ve been reciting verses and singing songs for years. (The sixth grade is also known as being particularly gifted in singing and acting – a very spirited bunch. A perfect place for Elihu. !)

I finally went to see an arthritis doc about my hands. Basically, he just confirmed for me things I already knew. It’s osteo, not rheumatoid. That’s a small blessing, I guess. But it is frustrating that in this day and age we still don’t know why people get it. It’s genetic, that we know, but in the end, knowing that is of no help. I did receive a script for a stronger anti-inflammatory, as well as a topical cream which has proven to bring a little relief during painful flare-ups (or long sessions at the piano). The doc is himself a classical pianist, and he told me that he also counseled a local jazz pianist about her hands. He told me that she happened to be convalescing nearby – so after my appointment I headed out to meet her. Little did I know I’d arrive just in time to hear her performing! A fantastic surprise.

Now that we’ve crested our end-of-winter busy spell, our attention begins to turn to the season ahead. When that red truck leaves town we know it’s just a matter of weeks before the snow will be gone. Hard to believe today, when flurries still fall, and the snowbanks are six feet tall. But just the other day, as I was cleaning the ice off of my car, I could have sworn that I smelled it. I stopped what I was doing and checked again. Could it really be? Yes, definitely, there was a new smell in the air. The birds are crowding onto our platform feeder with a renewed vigor – and that too tells me something is afoot. Change is coming. Our clocks have sprung forward as well. So now there’s finally some evidence that winter will be leaving soon.

Elihu and I have decided to enjoy the snow while it’s still here, and we’re going to use our snowshoes to visit the wetlands far back in the woods. Come Spring it won’t be accessible anymore, so there’s a benefit to the still-frozen ground. Knowing it won’t always be thus makes us appreciate it all the more. One more round of snow, then we’ll be more than ready for the great change ahead.

IMG_3021Homework continues, no matter what else is going on.

IMG_3024At the Waldorf School, students write in cursive. There’s a lot of writing, but my kid seems to be a bit more verbose than necessary. Hm. I wonder where he got that from?

IMG_3060The sixth grade’s play takes place in ancient Jerusalem.

IMG_3288Mr. Esty leads the final number at the dress rehearsal.

IMG_3347Thank you Cally for repairing Elihu’s costume on the spot!

IMG_3320The benevolent Muslim Emperor Salahadin and Jewish Merchant Nathan agree to be friends and shake hands.

IMG_3308Emperor Salahadin and his good buddy Roger.

Salahadin and Nathan ponder which of the three great religions is best.

The play ends with a song.

IMG_3296The cast, hamming it up.

IMG_3361Within minutes the class was out of costume, back in the classroom and winding down over some friendly games of chess. (Me personally, chess is not a de-stressor. !)

IMG_3279This is what my fingers look like these days. We can thank Dr. Heberden for lending his name to these enlarged distal joints.

IMG_3280Can’t fold them over side by side anymore, and this is as far as I can bend my index finger.

IMG_3159I don’t have a ‘before’ image to help give a better context, but even so you can see how the bone has grown, flaring out at the outer joints. It’s most noticeable in the middle finger.

IMG_3162I really liked everyone at this doctor’s office – and I love that the doctor’s wife has her dance studio in the same building. I love the idea promoting health and movement together. Btw – when I remarked to the nurse that I was rather disheartened at the lack of advancement in the understanding of arthritis, he pointed out to me that ten or fifteen years ago everyone in the waiting room would have either been in wheelchairs or walkers. He insisted that things are better – and that prevention entails healthier living and continued movement.

IMG_3167Now I’m visiting local jazz pianist and icon, Lee Shaw at a rehab center. I arrived just in time for her set!

IMG_3184Close to 90, this woman sounds as good as ever. I was thrilled to hear her.

IMG_3193Wish I could remember this bassist’s name, but he too was top-notch. He and I exchanged a smile when she started to play Billy Strayhorn’s ballad “Chelsea Bridge”. Seriously, what a treat.

The Great Lee Shaw

IMG_3376I got my new anti-inflammatory pills. Only problem is, I can’t open the package. If I could, I wouldn’t need the damned meds! ‘Press here’ indeed…

IMG_3377Screw it. That’s what scissors are for.

IMG_3486Backstage Missoula madness begins!

IMG_3503Grace is now a sixth grader, but she came back to help with the show.

IMG_3508This is Kevin, one of the MCT directors and magic-makers.

IMG_3499Hard to believe these boys are brothers! I bet they don’t always get along so peacefully…

IMG_3387The show’s underway.

IMG_3409Jessie – the cobra’s head – is the daughter of an old friend, and second to the end of the tail is little Coco, one of my piano students.

IMG_3541The entire 64 member cast and both directors. (Sixtyfour, did you get that?!)

IMG_3585A little last-minute post-show merchandise sale…

IMG_3587..and then it’s time to pack it all away again.

IMG_3601Twins Kestrel and Miakoda are regulars at the Studio’s summer art classes and worked backstage at this years’s MCT show.

IMG_3608Elihu pitches in too.

IMG_3597Can’t forget Sam! He helped out with everything!

IMG_3621I love the spirit that the Missoula Children’s Theatre brings to town; everyone pitches in to help get things done, and it puts everyone in a happy and upbeat mood.

IMG_3637

All of the scenery, lights, costumes, makeup and scripts fit into the bed of this ‘little red truck’. It’s more than a marvel. It’s miraculous, really.

IMG_3643Goodbye and thank you, Olivia and Kevin! All the best to you in your future careers!

IMG_3577Now that the dust has settled and the week has ended, it’s back to the bottom line.

 

Party Time December 14, 2013

Those who knew me personally ‘back in the day’ will remember The Party my ex and I held each year before Christmas. While still living at home, in my college years, I had begun to host a party each year, and so continued the tradition after I moved out and into my small apartment on the shores of Lake Michigan, in Chicago. My boyfriend moved in shortly after I did (I’d never truly lived alone until this divorce and cross-country move) and so the two of us began to host these annual parties together. By the time we closed our doors for the last time, we’d thrown twenty-one such parties. I’m slightly ashamed to admit, but I was disappointed that the dissolution of our marriage also meant that The Party would come to an end. Personally, I’d fancied very much seeing “Elizabeth and Fareed invite you to their fiftieth annual Holiday Party’ on an invitation one day, but clearly, with the time I have left here, and what with the ‘clock’ starting all over again, I will not make that milestone. I suppose I should feel lucky enough to simply have gotten back on the horse again after a six year hiatus.

It’s hard to begin a social life anew while in one’s middle forties, parenting a young child and navigating the cost of living as a newly single person. A few years down the line, it’s better, but my life in general certainly doesn’t have that cozy, familiar sense of place and of belonging than it did in the city where I lived my professional years. So to compare my situation as it is today to the one in which I lived fifteen years ago is ridiculous, I know. And yet I can’t help it… Those parties, in their heyday, were just magic. And to be frank, they were probably the most magical of all when the world was new… When we were, all one hundred or so of us, crammed into that tiny two bedroom coop in Rogers Park, crowding around the piano, singing, smokers elbowing for a spot on the balcony, me, shushing through the crowd in a killer dress, arm above my head supporting a platter of meticulously-crafted hors d’oeuvres…. The parties got larger over the years – our home got larger too – and the nights grew longer. One year the thing went for twelve hours non-stop. No kidding. Looking back, if I were to choose the years that stood out, it would be one of the first years in the apartment. Cozy, alive. And then there would be that first year in the mid-century behemoth. I have a shapshot memory from behind the piano of all my beloved friends, carol books before them – many even lining the balcony above our heads – all singing, beaming and just radiating love and happiness, the gorgeous, twenty-foot tree behind them, a crackling fire warming the room.

We were young, all at the doorsteps to creative, inspired careers. Some of us were already full-swing, many have since gone on to wonderful places. And many have, like me, settled into the next phase of their lives. The lives of parents, the lives of those with just a little bit less energy (less motivation to drive around looking for a parking space!). Lives that don’t include parties with tuxes and gowns. (I must add that the tuxedoes worn to our gathering had nothing to do with choice and everything to do with the fact that the wearers of them had just concluded a jobbing date and were on their way home from ‘work’.) These were electric gatherings, and we were young, merry and good-looking. I can’t help but feel a little pang of nostalgia in remembering. Perhaps if I’d known the end was coming it might have given me a sense of closure about the whole thing. But in that the divorce itself was a surprise, the end of The Party was also unexpected. There was no way to know that a tradition would be coming to a close. We did make it to twenty-one though, kinda like the party ‘came of age’, in a way. Anyway, that’s how I like to think of it. Helps me to close out that era in my mind.

So here I stand at the start of a new chapter. Tonite will be our second party. I still don’t dare use the word ‘annual’ on the invites, as I’m just not ready to commit yet. But if I make it to a fifth year, I just might. I still want an out if I need one. Still not even sure who it is I might expect to see – I’ve never cared for RSVPs. In my ideal world, a party should have a life of its own. I provide the opportunity, serendipity creates the magic. Or not. It looks as if we’ll have a snowstorm tonite; such a forecast can change everything. And I’d rather have people stay away than get stuck in my driveway. So we’ll see. Much up in the air. I’m also not very good at actually inviting people either, I make a quick ‘handout’, send out emails and almost always forget half the folks I’d wanted to include – suffice to say, if you live here, we’re friends and yet you haven’t received a proper invite from me – paper, email or otherwise – please don’t take it personally. I can assure you, you’re invited. My form leaves a bit to be desired these days. Ich. I’m gonna blame it on the chickens. !

Elihu is still sleeping, and I wonder if I too shouldn’t sneak back into the warmth of bed. It’s going to be a long day. Many farm chores await, as well as a last-minute cleaning of the house and general tidying. Yeah, think I will climb back in for a bit. I’m ok for now, and as ready as I’ll ever be. A moment’s more rest, a chore or two and then it’s time to get this party started…

Pianist Laurence Hobgood’s performance of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ in all twelve keys was always a highlight of our parties… here’s the link to his new CD which I highly recommend. Highly. You can still get one in time for a Christmas gift. And yes, it includes the aforementioned ‘twelve in twelve’.