The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Last Weeks of Saratoga’s Summer September 2, 2013

The 144th running of the Travers took place here in Saratoga last week – which may as well have been last year for the rate at which the racing culture moves (and life in general too, I suppose)… Lest we forget it, I’m here to remind you thru some pics and anecdotes….  And then moving ahead, this week was the town’s final official week of summer activities. Last night a different band played on every corner, and people of all ages filled the streets. There was not a parking spot to be found – except for those of us locals who knew better and used the few open spots in the ATC parking lot. (Heck, each one of us probably has a free Adirondack Trust Company pen laying around somewhere in our car… that counts for something, right?) The streets were more densely packed with humans, canines, pigs, horses (on police duty) and reptiles than at any other time in the year. It was poppin. Oh, and my kid was almost run over by a bicycle. His heart was racing all the way home. Excitement at every turn.

Travers Day 2013 005Backin up to last week. Elihu thought he’d try busking in front of the track, but everyone was in such a hurry to get inside that hardly a soul tipped. He was, however, remembered by his brethren tweenager peers who shared the outside common area and sold cold water to the incoming patrons. Street kids gotta support each other. Not being sarcastic when I say you could feel the love.

Travers Day 2013 012Inside, this is the first scene you encounter. Lots of people milling about under a canopy of trees outside the actual grandstand building. And as it turns out, this is the main experience for many at the races; they set up a picnic area outside and listen for the race results to be announced. Kinda seems to me like they’re missing the heartbeat of the place out here.

Travers Day 2013 013The famous red-and-white canopy that leads into the grandstand. This is also where the horses must cross. All pedestrian traffic is stopped to let the rockstar racers walk past on their way to the paddock.

Travers Day 2013 019Here comes a horse and his posse…

Travers Day 2013 020This duo reminds me a little of the Man of La Mancha and his horse…

Travers Day 2013 024Once inside we witness some crazy sub-cultures I’m not usually privy to… bigwigs and wiry little latin dudes from the streets excitedly sharing the good news about the last race. Just what is their relationship? What’s gone down here? Mm.  Wish I knew the story.

Travers Day 2013 046We found a small spot at the fence. Our neighbors hadn’t won all day long – until we got there. Just sayin. !

Travers Day 2013 027Here’s a look westward toward the main part of the grandstand.

Travers Day 2013 051Women’s hats are de rigueur  in racing season. I missed my opportunity to dress up my dollar store garden hat with a bit of colorful grosgrain ribbon. Ah well. There’s always next year.

Travers Day 2013 058Elihu’s assessment of this highly-touted race day so far? Crowds, crowds and more crowds has this young racing fan giving the Saratoga Racetrack a thumbs down. Oh dear. Not a very good first experience here at the track.

Travers Day 2013 059But we found the sweet spot where the photographers hang out. Shady, close to the action and free.

Travers Day 2013 060We also get to watch the comings and goings of the horse community. There is literally a village of people behind the scenes here. And they’re all passing right in front of us. From trainers to owners to jockeys to just plain horse hands to the folks that make their food, do their laundry… a whole working town supports this racing world.

Travers Day 2013 074

The horses might be superstars, but we have no idea.

Travers Day 2013 072

The owners and trainers are better dressed.

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You just have no idea which horse is which before they have their colors on.

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But it’s fun to see all the activity so close up.

Travers Day 2013 069OK, now lil man is feeling a bit more hopeful about seeing something meaningful today. We’re as close as one can get!

Travers Day 2013 100Getting the track ready for the 144th running of the Travers Race…. just minutes away now…

Travers Day 2013 102The riders have just passed us and are now getting ready to enter the starting gate. Elihu and I both admired “Will Take Charge” as he passed feet from us in his crisp blue and white…. and as he left (the last one to parade in front of us) I yelled after him to ‘Go and take charge, baby!’ We’d gotten the best and longest look at him, so in a rather off-hand way, we thought of him as our ‘pick’.

Travers Day 2013 103Elihu finally gets the hang of using binoculars – and is able to follow the horses for the entire race. Here they’re whipping past us. They run so fast and pass us so quickly that there’s little to see. Even the whomping of their hooves into the dirt, as impressive a sound as it is, is so short-lived that one is not even sure one heard it after they’ve passed…. Honestly, these races are all over so quickly that I’m tempted to be disappointed in the whole thing. But then you hear this tremendous roar from the grandstand… and that’s something. The energy of those who won, those who lost, those who almost won…. you can feel that. And for those who live inside this culture and for whom these horses, owners and riders have much more meaning, I can see how compelling this sport might potentially be.

Travers Day 2013 097

I, however, am left to simply imagine what this whole world must be like from inside. I don’t take my true thrill from a race watched – or won – but rather the sight of an anonymous race horse a mere feet away from me being lead back to its stall.

Travers Day 2013 108So. Who won? Guess. “Will Take Charge”. Elihu and I high-fived each other in the car when this gal told us the news. Snapped a pic of her commemorative program – just so we could prove we were here.  The bit about us wanting WTC to win can never be proved. Ah well.

Travers Day 2013 112Back in town to see if Elihu can part some tourists from their cash…

Travers Day 2013 110This kind of cash would be nice. !

Travers Day 2013 114Starting a little slow….

Travers Day 2013 116Ah, forget busking for now. Let’s go across the street and see what the lovely Alexis is drawing today…

Travers Day 2013 118She’s always very kind and lets Elihu try his hand at something nearby. Tonite he was trying to learn a bit about making things appear larger in the foreground. Not quite what he’d wanted to achieve, but a lesson learned. Almost. !

Travers Day 2013 122Hey – Alexis has a mom! (But don’t they really look more like sisters??)

Travers Day 2013 121A little scene gets going…

Travers Day 2013 126Elihu meets Faith, the tongue drummer gal.

Travers Day 2013 129I left em alone for a bit, came back and they’d switched instruments!

Travers Day 2013 156It’s getting dark now, and the scenes are shifting… Saratoga’s beloved Cecil is here playing banjo – and there’s a gal twirling her baton to his music. Elihu joins in too.

Travers Day 2013 160

The three actually have a charming little act going for a while.

Travers Day 2013 163Elihu’s trying out a knew skill

Travers Day 2013 175Things get active later at night as a new guitarist joins the corner. Cecil’s just about finished with his shift.

Travers Day 2013 183On the way to our car (to give Cecil a ride home) we hear these kids playing old-timey jazz. Right up our alley!

Travers Day 2013 185Elihu asks if he can join them, and soon all three boys are off and running….

Travers Day 2013 188They drew a crowd. Some folks danced, some made videos, but this mom just watched, grinning ear to ear.

The tenor guitar player’s mom put together a couple of nice videos of the boys playing. Here are the links:

Deed I Do     Bye Bye Blues

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So a week passes in what seems like a day, and we’re back on Broadway, busking and meeting people in the lovely and serendipitous ways that we’ve come to expect… here are a few more pics from earlier tonite…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 002First off, Elihu is crazy for this Chevy that we parked next to. I wish he could see its color too. Wonder what he’d think of it…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 012We check out the folksy folks. They were just getting going, so we listened a bit and moved on…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 033We had supper at Circus Cafe on the sidewalk. People, dogs, pigs on leashes and boas on necks all passed as we dined…

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Then Elihu joined JoJo Romero for a set of reggae. It’s a new kind of groove for Elihu, but he listens well and caught on right away.

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Not sure if this pic is any better. Neither’s great.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 049Ran into friends Marcia and Ceres. These gals had just come from a polo game. (So Saratoga.) Don’t they just look it?  So smart.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 055Cassandra took some videos of us and put them on Jojo’s Youtube channel. Thanks, that was sweet of you!

Elihu plays along with Jojo from the sidewalk, first night

Elihu plays with Jojo Romero on stage, second night

Mama dancing

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 053Now a pic of me and lil man in front of what is supposed to be a one hundred and fifty year old race horse. !?

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JoJo Romero and Elihu, post set…

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 056…and one more. Good night to our new friends, and thank you very much! Elihu had fun! This just in – Elihu and Jojo have the same birthday! (April 28th) How about that?

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 076Like Cinderella after midnight, my world changes… in my ballgown I must put the chickens in for the night.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 067Yup, this is how every night ends. No matter how high-brow it starts off.

Sept 1st 2013 Reggae 109

What a week. New friends, good music, horses, dogs, pigs, pythons, frogs, goldfish and chickens… Whew.

We are all tuckered out and ready for bed. Summer’s over and school begins in just two days! Hard to believe.

 

Calling It A Day August 17, 2013

As I write this Elihu is downstairs playing his drum set. It’s interesting to hear him work out new ideas. I’m impressed with how long he’s been at it now; it’s been at least forty five minutes since I retired to my room to put away the laundry (I think it’s evident that’s not getting done) and he’s come up only once to make sure that I’d heard something new he’d been playing. I assured him I had. Earlier today he busked a bit on Broadway and again I heard new sounds. He’d played downtown on Thursday night too, and I was amazed that to hear how much better he was playing these days and how many new ideas he was coming up with. Cuz seriously, how much variety can one get out of one single drum? Quite a bit, apparently. And now, in the spirit of a summer night with no reason to get up early the following morning, Elihu is enthusiastically enjoying en extended practice.

Today the weather was just perfect with a late summer day’s breeze and softening sun. For me this is the time of year that evokes a certain sadness of things about to be gone by; although the daytimes are still distinctly made of summer, the evenings have a certain cool to them that signals the changes that are coming soon. Tonight, to the soundtrack of fireworks from a neighbor’s yard and the crickets in the nearby field, Elihu chased frogs and watched the goldfish in the diminishing light of day. The evenings now have grown too cool for shorts, so I wrapped myself in a long fleece bathrobe as I watched him play after we’d finished eating. Earlier, as I had made supper, I’d watched him from the kitchen window as he transported frogs from the creek to the new pond. To watch my son play as I cook or do the dishes is something I don’t take for granted; these are no doubt some of the tiny memories I will conjure decades from now when I can hardly remember ever having a young child.

But as the night grows later I begin to think about the school year that’s coming soon. It’s getting later than I’d realized. He’s finished with the drums now and has returned to his post at the pond. I wonder if I should call him in. Soon we’ll need to adjust his schedule back to reasonable bedtimes and super-early mornings. A late night like this makes me wonder if I’m being a negligent mom. But I have my reasons for allowing him this extended play… Given Eihu’s achromatopsia, I understand so well why it is that enjoys playing at night more than during the bright light of day. He’s finally free of those stupid sunglasses, finally able to see his world as it is. While I myself cannot tolerate the ubiquitous mosquitoes, for him it’s a price he’ll easily pay, for the reward is great. I however can’t give him my audience anymore on account of both the chill and the insects, so I leave him to his own. As I sit and write, he comes in every few minutes to update me. Now he’s rediscovered an old glider he’d made once out of foam core and cardstock. He’s rummaging around in the junk drawer to make some adjustments to its weight. He’s having luck with his project, so I’m still hesitant to put an end to it. But a few good tosses of his plane and I think I’ll have to get him in.

This has been another wonderful day. We might not remember all of it, but we’ll definitely take away a few late summer memories. If not for the acupuncture appointment that Elihu accompanied me to this morning, then maybe for the visit to a friend’s house that netted him a vintage helicopter toy. And if neither of those stick, at the very least today will have been one of many fine summer days that help to create the overall emotional shadow of a very happy time in his life. Yup, it’s been another very good day, and I think that now we can finally call it a night.

 

June Interim June 22, 2013

As usual, there’s too much to do, too much to post about. But the tiny moments are what give our life its shape and color, so whether it’s newsworthy or not, I’m going to post an assortment of photos from the past week. From busking on Broadway in Saratoga to loading up on grain at the feed store and much in between, we keep ourselves busy.

Thursday was the first day of summer, and thankfully, after incredible amounts of rain lately, the weather was classic summer – with a bright blue sky decorated by random wisps of cloud, all at a perfectly comfortable 75 degrees. Elihu and I made the pilgrimage to Arnold’s Feed and Grain in an effort to both cut our costs and use locally grown grain to feed our flock. We had a lovely drive and stopped several times to admire our surroundings. On the way, we also stopped at the nursing home to visit Ace, the sculptor of the beautiful pieces that live in our garden. On the way home we found our road dead-ended at the local airport! This was too good to pass up, so we paid them a little visit too. When we got home we worked some more on our garden, then passed the evening watching the lightening bugs and jumping on the trampoline in the moonlight.

June 2013 end of school 305Elihu absolutely adores Austin.

June 2013 end of school 310Grandma says hello

June 2013 end of school 248A quiet moment with Maximus

June 2013 end of school 245Skin and feathers, all so soft

June 2013 end of school 332Later on Elihu plays recorder for Max

June 2013 end of school 271And then plays a game of tag with Austin. (See where Austin went?)

June 2013 end of school 181The Zen process of dishes. Must spend an hour and a half in dish-related labor each day. !

June 2013 Interim 103The blooming Locust tree branches pretty up our kitchen

June 2013 Summer Begins 030A spent bottle of shampoo? Huh? Well, it’s only after five years here that we’ve finally used it up. (Yes, Elihu does wash his hair regularly.) A few years ago I took some comfort in this bottle having come from…

June 2013 Summer Begins 029Skokie, Illinois!!   I’m over it now.

June 2013 end of school 205Boy’s play – outdoors

June 2013 end of school 237 Boy’s play – indoors

June 2013 Interim 069And boy’s play – on the street

June 2013 Interim 0724:20 somewhere…

June 2013 Interim 004One of those ‘quality of life upgrades’ – a bolt cutter. Everyone should have a pair.

June 2013 end of school 279The garden at first, with landscape fabric (a week away and I’ll lose the place to weeds if I don’t use it)

June 2013 Interim 025And now draped with Remay – a miracle poly cloth that protects against critters. It doesn’t look as romantic as a natural garden, but it works as a fence and is our greatest hope this year. The bolt cutter was used to cut the wire hoop frame underneath.

June 2013 Interim 026Sank up to my knees several times – actually panicked for a moment. Sticky stuff!

June 2013 Interim 059What resort is this?

June 2013 Interim 061It’s the private rooftop club at the Hillhouse! And here’s the rest of the view… garden, trampoline, apple tree to left. Note how our yard descends down the hill; it has three different terraced levels – including more yard below the garden.

June 2013 Summer Begins 020Elihu loves Irik a lot, but we need to find him another home soon… Three roosters is two too many.

June 2013 Summer Begins 035Peek a boo! This guy is part Jersey Giant, and he is the biggest chicken we’ve had yet. And he’s got feathered feet too. Cool.

June 2013 Summer Begins 053Ace’s bird…

June 2013 Summer Begins 068And Ace himself!

June 2013 Summer Begins 065Love that Ace was wearing an ace, too.

June 2013 Summer Begins 071Off to the countryside to the feed store. This is a magnificent view looking west across the mighty Mohawk River valley to the other side. Elihu can’t see well or far, of course, but somehow this vista got him – he really understood the distance it represented. He even saw that tiny puff of a tree on the ridge! Made me SO happy. This is not an average occurrence.

June 2013 Summer Begins 074I got some binocs that work particularly well with one’s glasses on – and BINGO! Now he can see birds and views…

June 2013 Summer Begins 081Mecca!

June 2013 Summer Begins 086A good third less than at the commercial Tractor Supply. Plus it supports a local, family-operated business. Even with the gas, it was a big savings. Now we’re all stocked up.

June 2013 Summer Begins 087Jim’s telling Elihu he thinks with a little leverage he might actually be able to handle a 50 pound bag. ! Mom’s not so sure…

June 2013 Summer Begins 094Thanks, Arnolds! Very pretty place you got.

June 2013 Summer Begins 099The nearest ‘city’ of Amsterdam, and its bustling downtown.

June 2013 Summer Begins 101Loved this sign since I was a kid. It’s the city library.

June 2013 Summer Begins 167It’s the Saratoga County airport! Woo hoo!

June 2013 Summer Begins 112Ok, so my legally blind kid recognized the profile – and correctly identified – this plane as it taxied in on the tarmac. Crazy.

June 2013 Summer Begins 153Mama loves vintage

June 2013 Summer Begins 156mmm

June 2013 Summer Begins 133Talk about the wind in your hair. !

June 2013 Summer Begins 136Can you imagine??

June 2013 Summer Begins 139Check out the word ‘experimental’ on the side. ?! Yeeps.

June 2013 Summer Begins 118Something’s coming in

June 2013 Summer Begins 124Beautiful in blue

June 2013 Summer Begins 150Not a very glamorous job, but necessary. !

June 2013 Summer Begins 149And a helicopter, too! That’s my dream – one day I have to know that feeling…

June 2013 Summer Begins 178Back at home, Elihu surprises Mama! He himself only weighs 58 pounds, after all!

June 2013 Summer Begins 175Chicken approved.

 

Catching Up June 4, 2013

Elihu and I have been running, running, running the past few weeks. This is a busy time for everyone it seems. End of year recitals, plays, projects and papers… Field trips, parties, good weather at last. As I write this, Elihu is in bed deeply asleep. When I went to wake him this morning I made the offer I make only a handful of times a year – “do you want to miss main lesson?” I asked him. Usually, because he loves school so very much, this question will rouse him out of his slumber and he’ll find it in him to get up and out of bed. Today however, he paused, said nothing, but shook his head up and down. Within seconds it seemed he was back asleep. Thankfully, at Waldorf – and at this time of year in particular when things are wrapping up and there’s no real urgency to school now – sleeping in is something we can allow without guilt. Such a relief! His old school would never had permitted such an exception. Thank goodness we’re where we are. Such a supportive place is this Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs!

Here are some pics of a recent field trip to a classmate’s farm and a few assorted shots from here and there….

May June 2013 Alice 018Elihu and Nora admire the phlox. The Hudson River is just past the field in the middle of the scene, and we live somewhere in the hills you see in the distance

May June 2013 Alice 024This is Jonah’s place – so he knows his way around

May June 2013 Alice 044This is Phoenix, Jonah’s twin brother, their stepmom Jessalyn, and their goats

May June 2013 Alice 040Jessalyn is also the eighth grade teacher at Waldorf

May June 2013 Alice 055Lunchtime!

May June 2013 Alice 065Tobias and Andrew, always together. It would be an understatement to say they’re into sports. !

May June 2013 Alice 060The whole gang at lunch. Fourth grade teacher Abigail Reid is in the middle.

May June 2013 Alice 114The fourth grade!

May June 2013 Alice 120Back on our own little farm…

May June 2013 Alice 125Elihu just loves our old rooster, Bald Mountain

May June 2013 Alice 156He loves Maximus, too

May June 2013 Alice 159We love that gorgeous wingspan!

May June 2013 Alice 183At grandma’s retirement party

May June 2013 Alice 244with grandma…

May June 2013 Alice 245and just a little later that night, busking in Saratoga

May June 2013 Alice 247The contents of a boy’s pockets: a toy car from when his dad was little, and his lucky turkey. !

May June 2013 Alice 173

Zonked! We all need to catch up a little sometimes…

 

July 4th Pics July 5, 2012

Our Fourth of July in Saratoga Springs, New York

Elihu meets Jeremy, a fantastic drummer busking on Broadway

Elihu jams with Jeremy

Elihu takes a spin on the homemade drums

Finally, the duck pond in Congress Park

Posing with a duck

Elihu takes a quiet moment ‘to connect’ with the duck before he lets it go

Watching a great kid drummer and his band

Aahh!

the joy of the Fourth

The tip jar on the morning after