The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Plymouth Ho! July 8, 2012

And here we are! On the north end of Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts. Wareham, to be exact. Our drive went smoothly – we drove the three and a half hours straight without stopping. (A very compelling book on tape by author Gary Paulsen had us riveted and helped to pass the time.) We stopped first at the Mayflower II in Plymouth. The smell of salt sea air hit us right away as did the sound of seagulls. Before us was a vast expanse of water – it was an inspiring sight. Somehow, my child who sees little of any detail beyond twenty feet, he too felt the shift in our space – he too felt the wide-open of it all. We were someplace very different. Sadly, the tourists (of which we were embarrassed to be a part) were everywhere, and it was all but impossible to imagine the scene some four hundred years ago – let alone fifty. We had romantic images in our head which were quickly dashed when reality set in. I had some idea it might be thus, but Elihu was quite disappointed in the commercial nature of the whole affair.

Aboard the Mayflower we met guides in costume who were deeply in character (lots more prep for this gig than Tony N Tina’s Wedding – that’s for sure!) and really helped to bring us into the feeling of the historic ship. Later, we visited an historic town circa 1627 as well as a Wampanoag Indian village that also employed costumed, in-character guides. We both loved the visit. Really fascinating.

And food? Well, what does one eat when on the Cape? Why lobster and clams – the whole silly body of the clam, thank you very much. No strips here. Serendipity guided us with absolute skill as we were prompted to find a restaurant in which we not only sat directly over the water, but we had open windows at our elbows, salt sea air gently wafting in and birds upon birds above and below, skimming, scooping, diving, swooping. We saw our very first cormorant in the flesh as we did a Caspian tern and the black-headed laughing gulls. But almost more amazing was that we sat next to a young boy who, like Elihu, had loved birds since he was small and knew them all just as well. Truly, this kid was a bird boy; so said his grandma and he himself nodded in agreement. Thomas, if you should in fact read this, it makes us happy to know that there is another boy in the world who loves birds as Elihu does. We were very happy to make your acquaintance and hope one day to meet you again.

Perhaps the most important part our trip was made just an hour ago when we visited with my Uncle Paul and Aunt Sandy. I hadn’t seen them in almost twenty years – yet they looked instantly familiar. And for the first time, here before me was a person outside my immediate family with whom I shared a bloodline; his face, build and mannerisms all right here for me to see up close. This was new. In the tiny room I could study my uncle. He was a good looking man – something I found interesting that I’d never noticed before. I could see the resemblance to my mom at once. I sat there, feeling almost as if I were in a dream. The Conants and the Jacksons (my mom’s side) just don’t ‘do’ family. It had occurred to me earlier as I wove around the curving roads and struggled to get my bearings in the dark, that none of them would have made this sort of effort to see us. But in the end it didn’t matter. My uncle’d had a stroke a few years ago and I had to come and see him in person before it was too late. I felt very lucky as we bid them goodnight and made our way down the steps to our car.

We’ll see them again tomorrow. Thankfully we have no agenda here but to lay on the beach, find some sea critters and hang with the family. Right now we’re going to get into bed and continue reading a book about a young boy on a whaling ship that once moored in nearby New Bedford. And just a minute ago, as Elihu flew his rc helicopter (single blade, fixed pitch he’d want you to know) he said “life is too good to be true right now!” Yup. That’s pretty much how we’re feeling.

Happy Post Script: We heard from the young birder and his cousin tonite! (Finally someone taking me up on the “Say Hello” page entreat…) Come back and visit again, Thomas and Lucas – and please share some of your bird stories with us sometime…

 

Travel Campaign June 29, 2012

Elihu and I have not yet been on a trip in our own part of the country, and have hoped to do so for the past three summers now. I have relatives I haven’t seen in years, and I’m becoming keenly aware that time continues to pass…

I’m hoping to raise some money in order to make this trip, because as things are now, I’m not sure we’ll be able to manage it. I realize everyone has financial burdens – and truly your emotional support through this past year has been worth far more than money itself – but if anyone is able to donate just a few dollars towards our trip, I think it might be much easier for us to manifest.

To that end, I’ve set up an account at GoFundMe.com if friends would like to make a donation for our Big Trip East. Just visit our page at  http://www.gofundme.com/q1ke4 and hopefully it will be easy to contribute to our account if you choose.

All told, we will be traveling about 1000 miles. We need money for gas, tolls, additional insurance, motel, food, admission tickets and parking – as well as money to pay someone to watch over our flock in our absence.

Here then is our proposed Big Trip East, to be made in two separate tours:

Leg One:  Saratoga Springs, New York to Wareham, Massachusetts via Amherst

My mom’s brother is now 84 and I haven’t seen him, my Aunt nor my cousins in over twenty years. They live in Wareham, Massachusetts, and so our hope is to meet them, swim in the Atlantic and perhaps – if we can swing it – go on a whale watching boat while we’re in the neighborhood. I know they’re pricey, but Elihu really wants to go. (I caution him that he might not be able to see them for himself, but he is determined.) I also have an old and dear friend from Chicago (whom I’ve known since she herself was Elihu’s age – and now she’s a real grown up!) who lives in Amherst, and she and her boyfriend would like to go with us to a local raptor center there. Finally, an important part of this leg is visiting Plymouth. Our very own ancient ancestor, Roger Conant, (we guestimate him to be Elihu’s great grandfather x 16) arrived there on the Mayflower in 1620. There’s a historic village complete with a reconstructed replica of the ship that we can tour too. Given my personal love of sailing, I’m very excited to show this to Elihu. And my mom is from Fall River, so we’d also like to go and see the house where she grew up as we wind our way westward along the coast.

Leg Two: Fall River, Massachusetts to New Haven, Connecticut

On to New Haven, Connecticut, where I was born, and it’s there we’ll take a peek at Silliman College of Yale University, my father’s Alma mater, and hopefully we’ll be granted entry at the secretive Elihu Society. A quick jaunt north to the suburb of Hamden to see the house I remember living in as a young girl, then back to the main route west, on to New York City.

Leg Three: New Haven, Connecticut to New York City

New York City, baby! I can remember a time when hardly six months of my life went by without my visiting this grand place. I haven’t been there since Elihu was born. About time. Too much to do here for sure. Friends we really want to see, Achromat folks to meet, perhaps a visit to the Bronx Zoo Aviary. Plus we gotta see a landmark. Not sure which, statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. Chinatown is a must, gotta see those big barrels of live bullfrogs and those crazy ducks, hanging in the store windows. Might want to head to mid town – West 57th – to see the historic building in which my father lived at the beginning of his career as a harpsichordist in NYC. Lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen? Some Chinese-Cuban fare perhaps? We also have friends I know from my old life as a musician – they were regular hosts to us when we played in the city, and we must drop in and say hello. Too much to do! At the very least we need (make that I need) to break the paralysis I feel in visiting this city. We only live three hours north and in future can ride the Megabus if we like. There is truly a ‘next time’ to be had. That should take the urgency and stress out of the mix.

The First Half concludes…

We return to Saratoga for a wedding mid July – and the welcome company of house guests all the way from Paris… Then, after we get our breath and clean out the car, we hope to embark on the second half of our summer’s journeys:

The Second Half commences…

Leg Four: New York City to Bel Mar, New Jersey with West Orange in between

We have some friends, formerly of Saratoga, who now live in Jersey. Mom Marion has recently written a book on the accordion (Squeeze This!) and her kids and Elihu have a ball together. I’ll be sure to bring my melodica along for a little music making. And, as Elihu reminds me, there is an aviary not far from their home, too. Then it’s down the coast to Bel Mar. Fareed and I always used to joke that ‘one day’ we would have a home both in Bel Mar, New Jersey, and Del Mar, California. !

Leg Five: Central Coastal New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philly. I have nice memories of that town. Few, but nice. And for some reason, maybe it’s all the historical novels we read last year, Elihu is resonating with the idea of a trip to that town. Seeing the Liberty bell excites him, seeing the olden day streets and buildings… But the biggest plus of this town is meeting my own cousin face-to-face as an adult. I don’t believe I’ve seen him since I was Elihu’s age – or younger. How can this be? I don’t get it myself. When we were little we saw them on holidays, but I guess as you age life gets more complicated and family spreads out all over… I do know that my father loved his big brother so very dearly, and Uncle Dave’s death was very hard on him. I mean to right the situation. It’s about time I met my cousin again. Kinda like meeting family you didn’t know you had. This will be fun…

Leg Six: Going home

Should we meander? Find our way to Deposit, New York (just outside Binghamton) to see friend Martha Carver’s childhood home? Should we stop in the Catskills? Are there points in between we might not want to miss? Or will we high-tail it back? As I have been saying to my son since he was tiny: “You never know until you go”…

Not sure if it’ll go as planned, but I gotta try. I’ve been hoping to do this since we moved here and feel I must take action. I set up our gofundme account a few weeks ago but haven’t had the guts or conviction to make my appeal til now. Not sure what I’ve been waiting for. But I gotta ask. Just a couple of bucks each from a couple hundred friends and we can get on the road. I hope you’ll consider it. My deepest thanks ahead of time should you choose to help us out.