Sometimes Lilting, Sometimes Tilting

May 25, 2006 @ 12:20 pm | Filed under:

(This was the first post at The Lilting House, the ClubMom blog I published in 2006 and 2007, now archived here.)

“Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry…”

—from Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

Eleven years ago, my husband Scott and I brought our first baby home to our cramped Queens apartment. I looked at her little face, so serene and new, and I knew that what I wanted was to give her a childhood as happy as the grass was green. The nights above our urban landscape were rather more neon-lit than starry, but still I had a conviction that a child could be young and easy under the city trees, and a second-floor walkup could be a lilting house. If retro is hip then I am the hippest of the it-doesn’t-get-hipper-than-this hip because the life I envisioned for this child was pulled right out of the pages of a hundred years ago: I wanted to give her Green Gables and Plumfield and the Secret Garden all in one. Okay, so technically all those places were make-believe, but I had a stubborn sense that what was good and beautiful about them was real and could be poured into any setting, even a city apartment with faulty heating and evil, shoe-sized cockroaches.

This conviction was put to the test when, a few months before her second birthday, this little golden child of mine was diagnosed with leukemia and we found ourselves transplanted to a Long Island hospital. We lived there, in-patient, for the better part of a year. During the first terrible week after she began chemotherapy, I remember praying over and over for one thing. It wasn’t, as you might expect, for her to be totally healed—that particular bone-deep yearning was such a given it hardly seemed necessary to articulate it. No, the words I found myself thinking incessantly were: Please let whatever time she has here be filled with joy. I had an awful fear that her carefree toddlerhood would be stolen by nausea and misery and pain, and I prayed desperately for the opposite. Let her be happy and lighthearted, let her have fun. What with the needles and the vomiting, “happy and lighthearted” seemed like a pretty tall order, but I figured that’s what miracles were for, and a mother can hope, right?

I quickly learned that if I wanted my little girl to be joyful despite her trials, it was up to me to supply the joy. No toddler can be happy if mama is sad and worried all the time. And so it happened that my prayer for her rebounded on me, on us. Scott and I discovered that happiness is a decision. The hospital nurses probably thought we were certifiable, the way we howled over supremely unfunny things. Like, say, being thrown up on four times in one night, and then being told there was a three-hour wait for the respite-room shower over at the Ronald McDonald House. Hey, my hair is crunchy! Hahahahaha…

I won’t be so disingenuous (or corny) as to say that laughter is the best medicine, because when it comes to cancer I’m a big fan of the heavy-duty chemo. But the laughter helped a lot. Sometimes, now, Jane will ask me to tell her “funny stories about when I had leukemia.” She doesn’t remember the bad stuff, just the ginchy band-aids and the little yellow car she used to tool around the halls in, with me (hugely pregnant with her sister Rose) panting along behind her with the I.V. pole.

After Jane got better, we left New York—Beanie had joined the party by that point, and the apartment was bursting at the seams—and moved to a place where the kids could be young and easy under the apple boughs, “under the new made clouds and happy as the heart is long.” Wonderboy came along two years ago, with his own set of challenges, from motor delay to hearing loss; and just six weeks ago we welcomed our little Rilla to the lilting house. Scott and I both work at home, writing: comic books (him) and children’s novels (me). Early on, we decided that homeschooling was one way to give our kids days as happy as the grass is green, which means the house may indeed be a lilting one but it is nearly always in a state of noisy disarray. My kitchen floors are a disgrace. My walls look like the training ground for a forensics lab. My furniture—well, let’s just say it would really class up an unfinished basement. I have no fashion sense whatsoever but fabulous taste in books.

And that, I suppose, is why ClubMom asked me to add my voice to their blogroll: to share the ups and downs of our homeschooling/freelancing/ rolling-with-the-punches journey. I’ll talk a lot about books because I can’t help it. I’ll talk a lot about Wonderboy’s challenges because ditto. I’ll talk about weaving (literally) and juggling (metaphorically) and sign language and writing and Latin and physical therapy and math and poetry and teatime and did I mention books? So welcome to our little house (I hope today is a lilting day). I hope you’ll drop by often. Just please don’t look at my floors.

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23 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Elizabeth Foss says:

    Consider this a housewarming for your lilting house. You have my heartfelt prayers and best wishes for many, many blessings and lots of happy memories here!

  2. Mel says:

    “Scott and I discovered that happiness is a decision.”

    You’re my kind of woman! Welcome to ClubMom (from the dieting section–I write “The Amazing Shrinking Mom.”) I think we should be friends, so pop on by (my personal blog is at I’m looking forward to reading your blog!

  3. Nick says:


    Im very excited for you. I love reading your blog and I have dropped into the Bonny Glen many, many times! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, ideas and funny moments.

  4. laura says:

    Hi Lissa,

    I’ve been following you on Bonny Glen for a while and just wanted to say yay! I’m glad there will be more of you and your family stories on the web!

    My husband works at home and I am a pregnant aspiring writer intending to homeschool (and never, ever have to go back to work again!!) so I’m eating up every detail about that aspect of your lives. It’s rare to see, and I hang onto every hope that it will work. We will make it work!

    So, thanks! And God bless you and yours. 🙂

  5. Alice Gunther says:

    I am glad to have many happy memories of that first Lilting House and looking forward to sharing many more with you in this one.

  6. Mel says:

    Congrats on your new blog!! I know that everyone will enjoy the wonders of your awesome family as much as I have in knowing you for the last 10+ years!! Good job!!

  7. Becky says:

    Tee hee. Another fun blog to read every day (alright, *almost* every day) 🙂

  8. Theresa says:

    Off to a fine start! I’ll visit you often here as well as at the Bonny Glen, as always.

  9. Christy says:

    Great post. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I will enjoy reading more to come.

    Christy 🙂

  10. Kathryn says:

    Oooh! I’m looking forward to regular reading of your new blog! I’ve made you “quote of the week” over at The Bookworm – – but can’t figure out a way to make a link show up here, other than by putting it in a comment. (Grrr! Blogspot!)

  11. Karen E. says:

    And just when I’m thinking I need to cut back on my blog-reading, The Lilting House comes along to dash my plans. 🙂 Congrats on your new home here … I’ll be dropping by, coffee in hand.

  12. Cay Gibson says:

    Congrats! Congrats!
    This place looks so lively and,well…lilting. LOL

    Love the name. Love the family.

  13. Taffy says:

    Congratulations on the new blog! I really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to more!

    And I also love the name :o)

  14. Janette says:

    Wonderful! I’ll certainly stop by often for the lift you’re always sure to provide. Congrats!

  15. MotherReader says:

    Nice intro. I heartly approve of blogs that start with some background, some reason for being, rather than just…starting, kinda mid-stream.

  16. Sherry says:

    I add my congratulations. More Bonny Glen? In a Lilting House? Fantastic.

  17. CityMom says:

    Having joined Bonny Glen mid conversation it is wonderful to have this new introduction to your family, I just remember them as lots of blond curly heads at a table full of art supplies (a wonderful image to reflect on, they were angelic).

    I was wondering if at some point, either here or on Bonny Glen, you might write about the place for comic books in the children’s literature/twaddle conversation. My PT is very interested in Spider Man lately, and I don’t quite know what to do with that.

    By the way, even without doing laundry I don’t know how you find time to keep up all these pages!

  18. Caryn says:

    This one brought me to tears. Love your new blog, dear.

  19. Melissa W. says:

    CityMom, that’s an excellent topic to tackle, and I’ll probably rope in Mr. Lilting House for that discussion. Not surprisingly, he has some pronounced opinions regarding comic books…although some of the OPINIONS might surprise you. I’ll have to ask him about Spider-Man, but I know that when people ask him (former Batman writer that he is) what Batman comics are appropriate for children, Scott’s answer is: none. Not anymore. His run on Gotham Adventures was pretty much the last time Batman comics were safe for little kids. (That one is *my* opinion.)

    We let our kids read some comics—Scott’s Batman, Scooby Doo, the occasional Looney Tunes. The latter especially is full of literary and historical references, just as the TV cartoons were. Also full of crude jokes and bloodless violence, of course. But there’s a lot more to this discussion (the universality of the good vs evil superhero themes, for example—it’s important to note that while Batman will beat villians to a pulp, he *never kills*–NEVER) and you’re right, it belongs in a post.

    CM and everyone else–thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m thrilled to see you here!

  20. Kristie says:

    Great new blog!! I love reading Here in the Bonny Glen. It is a space of my day I so look forward too!!
    Thanks so much

  21. Loni says:

    Ooooohhh, books! Another homeschool mom here that LOVES books! 🙂 I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog and thankful to see another homeschool ClubMom blogger here!

    Looking forward to getting to know you more!


  22. Joanie says:

    I just discovered your blog and I’m so glad I did! Looks like I have a bit of catching up to do. We’re just starting our second year of homeschooling and I’m always looking for new ideas. I’m pretty new to this whole blogging thing, too. I actually have 2 sons with challenges, one is 18 and severely autistic and the other is almost 8. We’re homeschooling the younger one as he is so smart, but was a little lost at school. My husband is a pediatric oncologist and I was a pediatric oncology nurse (about a million years ago). Those upbeat and as you called it “certifiable” parents were always my favorites! What an incredible gift you gave to your child. I saw parents like that really make a difference. Anyway, looking forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks!