The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Culture of Two October 6, 2013

It’s begun to dawn on me today that the time of just we two – Elihu and me, that is – will be coming to an end before too long. Tonight, my son is spending the night with his twin friends, Jonah and Phoenix. Together, the three of them are joy personified. They revel in each other’s company and never tire of wanting to play together. Although I still get a kiss goodbye and a good solid hug, I am so quickly forgotten when Elihu is with them. And while it really does lift my spirits as a mother to see him so supremely happy, I can’t help but wince just a little way deep down at how easily he moves away from me. I know it’s right and good, but still…. And when I got home tonight and had no one to talk with about the day, no one to talk with about upcoming plans, future projects… I realized that I missed my kid. A lot. Gone one friggin night and I was missing him! Don’t get me wrong, I hold dear my precious little time alone – tonight is a very rare occasion indeed – but something about a one-off night on my own just gets me off my groove, leaves me feeling just a bit little adrift and aimless…

Truly, I exaggerate, for aimless I really aint. Tonight, in fact, I’ve been working for the past seven hours on Elihu’s Halloween costume. And I cannot get that kind of quality work done when he’s home, so it’s just as well he’s out. I know he’s had a great night and so have I. As I begin to envision my son’s enormous satisfaction with the costume, I pause, realizing that this might well be the last such costume I make for him… and the thought gives me a little pang in my heart. I know that life at Waldorf is a bit different, that childhoods in that culture last a bit longer than those of kids in other schools – yet still, I’m not confident that next year he’ll dream of a costume the way he has up until now. It might not be a priority in the presence of his peers… I can already just see half a dozen sixth grade boys out trick-or-treating… the roughhousing and craziness, the running on ahead, the leaving of parents far behind…  It will no longer be my young son and me alone, taking our time to prepare for each house, adjusting the costume just so, getting into character before ringing the bell…. Until now, I’ve loved our Halloweens. It’s been just we two, alone in the dark night, each of us feeling the thrill of a costume unlike any others, each of us marveling at the fine homes of Saratoga, lingering to admire gardens and courtyards, taking in the decorations on the massive front porches… I just can’t see any of that happening in a posse of boys. And it looks as if this year, now that we’re fully ensconced in our new school, we’ll be joining his classmates in a group on Halloween. That means mom and son night won’t be. I wonder if I might enjoy a half hour of our own, but I tell myself not to count on it. Not to hope for it. His new friends are so important to him. And I’m relieved that he finally has a thriving social life. But the more it develops, the less I’m a part of it. This year’s Halloween reminds me of the middle school years just around the corner. Things will change, I know. And it’s all as it should be, but I’m just not sure I’m ready. I’ve had him so much to myself up until now, that having less of him – relatively all of a sudden – may be hard.

The other night, as Elihu got out of the bath and was drying off, I noticed hair on his legs I hadn’t noticed before. I’m not sure if I’ll always be able to talk with him easily about his body and the changes that are coming soon, but thankfully these days it’s still ok. I felt comfortable pointing it out, and he himself was kinda pleased. He giggled. And did I see just the faintest haze of hair on his upper lip, too? Oh my God, did I? It’s hard to see the change in my own son – I’m still only now adjusting to the changes I’ve seen in the other kids at school. One summer, so much change. And it’s subtle stuff, it’s not as if you can so much pinpoint any one single thing – it’s just an overall look of maturity. Has my own child grown too? I myself find it hard to detect, being with him every day as I am. But I know he must be… Each day that he continues to call me ‘Mommy’ I consider a blessing. It simply can’t call me that for much longer, can he? I certainly don’t want him embarrassed by it. Again, I’m thankful that we live in the Waldorf world which is much more nurturing and like home than school. Elihu still takes up my hand as we walk to and from school, and he still kisses me goodbye. I can say with confidence that he would not do the same were he attending his old school. But it’s different here. Yeah, childhood is precious and unhurried here, but nonetheless, boys will be boys, and kids will grow up. So I take not one moment – or good-bye kiss – for granted.

With the house to myself for a night I find that order is easily restored; the dishes for one rare night among many are all washed and put away, the laundry’s in and the house is in general good order. Most days I find myself complaining more than I’d like to admit about all the stupid housework life requires of me – about the never-ending dishes, the cooking of food, the sorting of piles and putting away of things – and while I tell Elihu it’s just the way it is – it’s not anyone’s fault – I do know that when he’s not here, there’s much less to do. I as one person eat less (I certainly require less thoughtful food preparation), I don’t burn through clean clothes as he does, and I don’t have as many toys to put away. Yeah, it’s a quieter, easier household when he’s not around. And yet he’s a pretty good kid too – tidies up, is mindful of things, helps out. But no question, there’s less work with just me. And it occurs to me – that pretty soon, at least a lot sooner than I think – it will be just me. And I won’t have dirty dishes to bitch about. I won’t have piles of crap to put away. I won’t have to stress over cooking ‘nice’ meals…  I won’t have a reason to bitch anymore, will I? What I will have will be an empty house. A lonely house. A house of one. Ich. That doesn’t sound so nice. Maybe I don’t mind the housework. There’s not a lot, really, and it’s gotta be a hell of a lot easier than having a family of four or more… Yeah, I think I like what we’ve got. I like our tiny family.

It’s time to turn in now. The paper mache costume is in the basement drying, the house is tidy. I’ve enjoyed a nice night to myself and was grateful I didn’t have to make supper or do dishes. But still, I’m not yet ready for a house that’s this clean and quiet every single day. I’ll take the extra housework if it means I’m still lucky enough to enjoy life with just me and my boy. I enjoy the simple life of just one person for sure, but for now I think I still prefer the culture of two.

 

Happy Boy May 29, 2013

Elihu: I just have a question.

Keith: Yeah?

Elihu: Are you happy?

Keith: Yeah, I am. Are you? Or are you bored?

Elihu: I’m not bored. I’m the opposite. Whatever that is.

Sitting on the computer, enjoying a moment of down time in between household chores, I listen in on Elihu and his buddy Keithie. They’re both playing with a remote controlled car on the kitchen floor. They’re sharing it, and there’s not much to their play. Yet they are having an absolute ball. When I heard that little tidbit just now, I had to open a new post and get it down before it was lost to a busy life. Too many moments are forgotten in spite of our best intentions, and I really wanted to remember this one. These two boys have less and less in common each passing year, yet they continue to enjoy themselves whenever they’re together. They enjoy a relationship that started in their kindergarten class – and for that alone I’m fairly certain that decades hence they will still be fast friends no matter what happens between now and then.

They’re taking their game all through the house, giggling and carrying on so much that I have to check and see if it’s really just a simple rc car that’s inspiring all this play. Yes, it is. That, and the imagination of two ten year old boys. Still in that place of illusion, of true play. I know it won’t be thus much longer. Last night, after we’d finished reading and had turned out the light, just as I was dozing off Elihu startled me awake. He hadn’t been getting sleepy, instead he’d been thinking. “Do you realize I’ll be in fifth grade next year?” I swear he almost sounded panicked. It seems he’s always been far too aware of himself to be a true peer of his classmates. We’ve spent hours discussing the way in which one’s thinking and priorities change as one ages. He’s keenly aware of how precious this time in his life is. Maybe because I’m his mother, and it’s on my mind too. But regardless of that, he has an innate sense of the deeper meanings behind things – all on his own. There’s some nurture for sure, but it’s more nature than anything else. Shortly after he turned five, he once turned to me and said in all seriousness “You do know that I’m more forty-five than five, don’t you?” His tone was firm, and his eye contact direct. “Yes, sweetie” I said, imparting all the sincerity I could, “I do know that.” And I did. I was taken aback at his statement, and yet on some level, I might have expected as much. There’s just always been something different about my child. And I admit that I’ve always been just the teensiest bit sad for him precisely because he is so aware, so thoughtful…

The giggling continues, and it lightens my heart. He might think of himself as ‘more fifty than ten’ on some days, but today there’s no question. He is still a little boy. And thankfully, a very happy one too.

end of may 2013 012

Keithie and Elihu share time on the coveted DS.  This was one lovely afternoon. Not an argument between the two all day; a good time was truly had by all. Me included. !

 

Elihu’s Tenth Birthday Pics April 29, 2013

What a fantastic day from start to finish. Gorgeous weather, dream-come-true birthday gifts, lots and lots going on all at once – music in the basement, a traveling trumpet, a worried goose, chickens underfoot, a trampoline and an old-timey car… and our wonderful friends and family to share it all with…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 003The birthday angel came!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 004WOW! The long-wished for Calypso remote-controlled glider!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 005And the grown-up software for learning how to actually fly! OMG!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 018Very proud owner of the Calypso

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 023There’s a helicopter coming in for a landing just above the cake… (bad angle to see well)

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 059The party gets started

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 064Something’s happening in the incubator…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 080It’s somebody else’s birthday now, too!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 078Some boys sneaking away for a little DS time…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 051Alex and Paige on the hammock

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 039Jessica and Matt enjoy the zero gravity chairs and the view

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 092Time for cake!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 152Look who’s here! The youngest resident of Greenfield, baby Rachel – and her whole family!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 156

Annabelle is a big sister twice…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 114Hayden announces the gifts with a fanfare

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 157Look what Cora made for Elihu!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 148Cora and Sophia made these too!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 136Lots going on at once…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 087And it looks like everyone’s having a good time

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 089What a nice bunch of folks

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 161Elihu with Grandpa, Mama and Grandma

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 168This poor goose was very frustrated and tired with all the coming and going…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 172Things take a little longer, but that’s ok. The whole party actually picked up and moved to accomodate Dad when he arrived. So grateful to everyone for including him. He hasn’t been out in ages…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 198Bye neighbors! Nice to see all five of you…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 228Elihu and I have dinner by candlelight. Heather brought me some “Happy Birthing Day” flowers! So very kind of her.

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 240Two very happy people at the end of a very lovely birthday.

 

At Ten and Two April 27, 2013

No time for much reflection now, it’s late and time for bed. I was poking around my old pics and found one of Elihu at two… then just moments ago we took one of him on the eve of his tenth birthday…

Elihu at Twoat two….

Elihu at Ten…and then ten.

 

What’s A Girl To Do? April 18, 2013

My mom stays with Elihu on Wednesday nights while I go in to the high school to teach a continuing ed class I call “Not Your Mother’s Piano Teacher”. It works out well; Elihu and grandma get to enjoy some time just to themselves, and I get out of the house. But after this final run of seven classes, I’m not so much in need of merely getting out of the house as I am in need of really going out. Just today I’d made impromptu plans to grab a drink with two of the only near-peer women I know in town, but then realized it was on the same night as my kid’s Spring assembly. Phooey. That was slightly disappointing. Not worried, we’ll reschedule. It’s not a big deal, but frustrating just the same. Don’t mean to sound whiney here – because I actually did go out last week, and it was an enjoyable diversion from my rather same-same life these days. But truthfully, there is nothing – that I know of yet – to take the place of the full complement of friends, music, food and places that were routine and treasured parts of my life back in Chicago. Nope. Still got nothing. Yeah, there are world-class acts coming through the equally world-class Zankel Music Hall at Skidmore College (less than 4 miles from our door!) – yeah, there’s stuff going on… There’s certainly an impressive roster of high-end restaurants to choose from up and down Broadway…(It’s all beyond my budget and past my kid’s bedtime anyway). But still. There’s no little taco joint with someone’s abuelita cooking in the kitchen, there’s no late night jazz joint with deep fried food and all the young cats lining up to sit in… there’s no Korean barbecue joint jammed to the rafters at 4 am filled with the mouth-watering scents of marinated meats grilling to blackened perfection… And there sure as hell aint no Green Mill. Mm-mm. And there aint nothin around these parts like the Diner Grill on Irving. Nope. Nothin.

I surely did live the life large, I did. Looked good, made good music, ate good food, treated my friends good, had good adventures, had good times and more good times. And I do not think that I am romanticizing those good times. I am not. I lived the shit out of my life all through my twenties and thirties. I’d planned to keep on living the shit out of my forties too. Remember being on a gig when my milk began to come in – just a few days after Elihu was born. Thought my boobs would break before the set was over. Even got kinda scared for a moment (first kid, no idea what was going on.) But it wasn’t my last gig as mommy, certainly not; soon after that came the big band dates where I’d press the poor babe’s head to my chest to try and soften the blow of the wall of horns just behind us… I learned how to hand off the babe when it was my turn on stage, I learned how to nurse while hosting a radio show, switching sides at the top of the hour…I learned how to bring the baby so that I could keep on doing my thing. My intention was to keep going in the same manner as I had for years. But no matter how one tries, nothing can truly be done in the same manner as the years ‘before baby’.

In an effort to stay active and involved in music – in some form – and not simply give in to the obvious, home-bound role of new mom, I also began to tag along on a handful of daddy’s shows too. In the beginning it was doable. But before long I was beginning to lie to myself; telling myself I enjoyed going along with my hubby on his thing, that I was ok with having fewer creative events of my own. Cuz things were changing. Pop gigs were phasing out for me; my world of musical friends and projects and shows just kind of dried up in that first year after my child’s birth. I was becoming more mommy than musician. For a time, jazz gigs still worked (those dates actually paid enough to hire babysitters and often involved my husband. Gigs were our dates). But the alt bands with all those basement hours writing and arranging… that was out now. Just not logistically possible with a baby, especially a newborn. And even if it were, how selfish! Writing, rehearsing, it was way too self-indulgent for a new mom. That sort of music, after all, did not pay the bills. No room for that in this new life.

So there I am, newly forty, newly a mom, with my husband on the road most of the time. So I do what I hadn’t thought I would: I give up and stay home because it’s ultimately less stressful. Ok, I think to myself, I may as well try to assimilate into the culture of Evanston moms who, like me, had chosen to live a bit of life first before having their kids on the closer side of forty. On paper it might have seemed we’d be a good fit; college-educated, middle class white gals who listened to NPR comparing notes on their toddler’s development and lamenting their rising property taxes… But try to assimilate as I did, I could not, and it was a very depressing time for me. I had no connections to these people – people whom I shared my life with only because we lived within walking distance of the same toddler park! And it was around this time I began to notice something that there was very different about Elihu’s vision. And with that awareness came an even greater sense of distance from everyone.

That’s when my isolation started, I guess. Not my story alone, for sure. You have a kid and you have to let go of other things. You lose some friends, some hobbies, you get fat, you get cranky. We all know that having a family changes everything. But I was completely ready for all of that. I was ready to trade it all for the adventure that promised to come next; a growing closeness of family, having another baby, the putting down of roots, the beginnings of traditions, the sharing of our love. What I wasn’t ready for was the growing distance from my husband, and the growing sense that we weren’t as closely united in our goals as I’d thought. I learned years later that he really had wanted me to simply give everything up – as in my bands, the big house (to which I say come on – we wanted that house for years!) and just go along with him, gig to gig, babe at breast. I just wasn’t comfortable living like that. And so there the divide began. He going more deeply into that hippie, jam band culture on the road, and me, waiting it out in our beautiful mid century home. Yeah, Elihu and I spent a lot of time together, waiting.

So here I am at the cusp of fifty, my son about to turn ten (we like to say we’re turning sixty!) and I wonder what the hell happened to my forties? I can account for all the decades before with great enthusiasm, vivid, landmark memories, but my forties? What the hell happened just now??? I am grasping for tidy ways in which to organize my retrospection; I can’t have wasted these past years on nothing but a wretched, heart-numbing divorce, can I have? I search for the light, the joy, the relief…. I search for that feeling… the feeling of happiness and contentment that seemed to float all around me in my younger years… Much of it came from the music I was making, much of it was my home life, my husband, my cats, my friends… And it’s this feeling – the feeling of ease, of joyful happiness I miss these days. Do we all feel thus at this age? Is it my age, or my aging process that brings me to these ruminations or is it the events of the past decade? I haven’t had the worst of it, but somehow, I feel like my forties were taken from me. They sure as hell didn’t pan out as I’d thought.

Now at the end of a ten year run, I find myself just wanting to go out and have some fun. But what form does that fun take at this time in my life? I might have to re-evaluate that simple question. I love my son, and truly my life with Elihu has been the supreme gift of this invisible decade, but still…. I’m just a bit tired of being mommy all the time. I want to go…. somewhere…do something… I struggle with this. No answers come. Ah screw it. In the end, I find myself returning to my favorite date, my most cherished partner in life. Next week I’ll have some fun – we’ll have some fun. Elihu and I will have our annual birthday dinner at the local iconic Wishing Well where he’ll thrill to a plate of frogs’ legs and I’ll thrill to a cold gin martini before supper while the piano man plays in the lounge…. Not so bad, really. While I might lament this seemingly unending role of mommyhood, I do realize that this chapter too will close one day, and I will wonder where it has gone. I am deeply aware that I have a kid I not only love, but whose company I also thoroughly enjoy. This is where my life is now, so I’ll try to dwell a little less on the life I left behind. Cuz the one I got goin right now is pretty good. It is. I may know the thrill of city life again one day, but I also realize that one can’t ever truly go back. There really is nowhere else to go – but forward. So I guess that’s all a girl can do.

 

To Be Ten April 10, 2013

As tired as we both were, tonite, when we got into bed, our minds would not stop and we continued

to chat as old friends who haven’t seen each other in a very long time will do… Elihu had a poem inside of him,

so I got out the computer to get this thoughts down as soon as we could

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

to be ten is something different. it’s not what you used to be,

everything is different, all the things you hear and see…

are not quite the same as they were when you were nine

cuz when you were only nine, everything seemed good, and fine

but now that you’ve turned ten you say to yourself again

I don’t think things are quite the same as they used to be…

Elihu