It’s the season for birthday parties again here at the Hillhouse. Elihu turned twelve on the 28th of April, and I will be turning 52 on the seventh of May. For all intents and purposes, he and I are forty years apart. This is the one week we like to joke that ‘we’re not the same age’. (I had him nine days shy of my fortieth birthday. That was not a great birthday – I was fat, unkempt and exhausted. I remember bursting into tears that day, and my mother, whom I was so lucky to have there for that first, whirlwind week, responded by laughing. She assured me it wasn’t so bad. Turned out, it wasn’t.)
And here we are, more than a decade later, Elihu embarking on his thirteenth year. He’s lived here now for more than half his life, and we’ve established a nice groove of traditions too. He simply can’t wait for his birthday party each year; days before the event I’ll find him staring off into space and when I ask him what he’s thinking of, he tells me it’s his party. Each year he hopes it’ll be the biggest, funnest party yet, and each year he his seems to get his wish. Just one week ago, while we didn’t have the sun and warmth of today, we had a house filled to the rafters with folks of all ages, coming and going, music and laughter upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside…. And, of course, we had a most delicious cake, which sported a menacing Pokemon character that greatly impressed all the sixth grade boys present.
The night before his party I myself had a night of partying which is quite uncharacteristic of my current life. The credit union where I bank was throwing a party for its members – and having never been to the local casino and track before (crazy, right?) I decided I’d go. They even gave us some cash for gaming, so I tried my luck. Result? I lost all that I bet, then won it all back. I cashed out where I started! Ha! In my world I’d call that winning.
For many folks the holidays – from November to early January – are their busiest months. But not so for us – in addition to birthdays and mother’s day (not such a biggie here) come end-of-year plays, recitals and projects, and all of that makes Spring the most heavily-committed time of year. For me personally, Halloween and Birthday party season are the big landmarks on our calendar. Each year after I successfully navigate the logistics of a busy Spring, I experience a great flush of relief, because for us, life is truly at its best when it’s at its simplest. While I love a good party, enjoy the company of my friends, and of course I cherish the memories we make – the two of us just being at home after it’s all over and done – that’s my favorite party time of all.
At the Harness Track. Not to be confused with the historic flat track that Saratoga Springs is famous for.
These guys race with carts and drivers – and these horses run with a different gate than the horses at the flat track. The course is also a lot shorter (I like that you can see the whole thing without needing binoculars). That’s about all I know. The place is about eight miles as the crow flies from my house, and we can see the incredibly bright lights from our perch on the hill. It used to annoy me, but I’m used to it now.
This is the room where it’s all about the runners. Monitors line the walls, keeping patrons up on all the many other races taking place in different parts of the country. No slot machines here. Folks I saw were mostly bleary-eyed and drinking coffee as they studied pages of sheets filled with data and stats and start times. This part didn’t really scream ‘fun’ to me. (But for some, this is the culture. This is why they’re in Saratoga.) Immediately after taking this shot I was approached by a security guy who asked me please not to film or record the patrons. He leaned in close to me, lowered his voice and took a certain pleasure in explaining why; “You see, some of the men might not be here with their wives. And some of these women might be out with someone other than their husband. Ya get what I mean?” he nodded, conspiratorially, as I slowly began to nod my head with the revelation. Gotcha. So this is how the other half lives. And so close to home. Who knew?
I’m about to eat at the huge restaurant that overlooks the track.
The view from my table. This is pretty exciting. I can see how people can get caught up in it.
…and here I go, off for my first-ever night of gambling. (If ten dollars in counts as gambling, that is.)
Slot machine stupor fills the hall – as does a harmonically resonant Bb above middle C, the result of a constant dinging and humming from thousands of machines. Talk about the stuff of panic! Shoulda brought ear plugs.
I have ‘Zero valuable points’. Love it.
But things are about to change…
Ta-da! Back where I started. Fine by me!
The gals from the credit union and me. Haven’t done this full-on party with the posse stuff in years…
A little dancing, and now what, ladies? Shots? Ok. Ya talked me into it… cheers!
And now for a completely different kind of party… This little fella comes out each year to mark the easy-to-miss driveway.
Things start out so peaceful and tidy…
The sixth grade boys. Elihu is so happy!
For those not in the know, that’s the Pokemon character Mega Rayquaza on the cake. (??) To use the vernacular of the sixth grade boys there present: “Sweet!”
A little jamming in the basement. Emma plays drums in the high school bands. She knows what she’s doing!
The upstairs rig. ! This is a kid who has it all.
How lucky were we that Elihu’s class teacher, Mr. Esty came? And he brought both of his sons too!
Miss Jessica chills in our favorite Eames knockoff chair. Vinyl, not leather. Still gorgeous. You too, sister!
Outside the chickens provide entertainment.
Thumbs Up enjoys a smooch from classmate Norah, who is a talented skier, pianist, and bee-keeper.
Inside, it’s all about the newly hatched chicks.
For me the highlight of the day was seeing my eighty-year-old mother ride off on Chad’s four-wheeler. !!! He was incredibly generous and helped many of the kids to ride on their own too.
That’s neighbor Ryan on the left and my mom on the right. Can you believe he’s in kindergarten?? He’s very talented and naturally skilled at riding.
Cally entertains us by blowing bubbles – with her lips! You can always count on this girl to add interest to any occasion.
Ok, so somewhere in the world someone’s probably made a beer float, ya think? What the hell, just to be sure, let’s try one ourselves. Genesee Cream Ale and birthday cake-flavored ice cream… here goes nothing…
Ok mom, waddya think? That bad? Here, let me try…
Elihu got some flying in, too (that light blue thing is his quadcopter). No day is complete without this activity in some form on another.
Vivianna and Norah chill on the couch. Elihu gave out little fans as party favors – a nod to his love of aviation.
The party’s not complete until the Carrico clan arrives!
All three Carrico girls made some noise at the piano while grownups chatted and Elihu got lost in his 3DS.
These girls know all about chickens. We got some of our current flock from them as chicks last year.
There was a seventy-eight year spread in ages at the party! Mom and baby Rachel.
Makers and fixers of anything under the sun, the Carrico men take an interest in the design of the antique rocking chair.
The party is officially over when this bunch goes. Goodbye, thanks for coming! We had so much fun visiting!
Too bad a school day followed; lil man was still wiped the next morning. Well worth it though.
A weekend of party times we won’t soon forget.