Clean and Empty

Well, the summer houseguests are gone,and now I’m cleaning and putting the rooms to rights, vacuuming up the hundreds of spider webs that I just KNOW weren’t here two weeks ago (A spider web from the mirror on my bureaus to the curtains on my window!  A spider web WITH A SPIDER, not five feet from the bed, where I have been sleeping all week…


with David a thousand miles away bringing the wonders of foam to a grateful nation.

The vacuuming part is actually sort of fun. It reminds me of going to Confession in the hard old days when you had such terror about having to report every bad intention never mind every bad act; but afterwards – ah! – You felt so clean! Shriven was the word they used. This house is shriven!

The sleeping-alone part seemed like it might be fun for a change but it hasn’t been.

Oh at first it was cool knowing I had the bed to myself and piling all kinds of things in there with me but after that…  I don’t know.

Last night I tossed and turned.

I miss the old ball and chain and when he gets off that plane at 4pm today I can tell you I will be HAPPY to see him, that wiper-down of counters  and picker-up of sticks outside, that meticulous householder. I suppose he’ll notice right away that I ran over a giant bottle of Nivea with my car. It exploded with a loud crack when it went under the wheels and sprayed its special Super Enriching formula in a 30-foot delta across the driveway.

Yeah. He’ll notice that. He is  one vigilant guy.


Here is a picture of him now, keeping watch over our littlest one’s supper that time we took all the kids to Disney World. (Or, come to study it more, he might just be eyeing everyone’s leftovers.)

I hope he even gets here early. I think I’m growing a little odd without him. Can you say Grey Gardens? 🙂

There was something cool about old Edith Beale but ice cream in bed taken straight from the cartoon is generally a bad idea. 🙂

Buried Alive

Grey Gardens boy: I bet I’ve watched both the HBO dramatization and the original documentary about that sad old story a dozen times. There’s something so haunting about the relationship between Edie the elder and her daughter. Poor Edie Jr., 40 years after this picture was taken, walking around with one skirt functioning as a head scarf to hide her baldness and a second upside-down skirt pinned around her torso. Poor both of them, hiding in that bewitched Sleeping Beauty castle of a house, holed up in a single room on bare filthy mattresses surrounded with cat waste. It’s like some nightmare about the future that could fill you with stark terror as you slept.

At one point in the documentary the two are talking of marriage and Edie Jr.’s unmarried state, she who said she could have married any number of men if she hadn’t been prevented by her various dark forces including her abandoning father; could even have married Joe Kennedy and been First Lady like her beautiful cousin Jacqueline. That abandoning father and husband, that Phelan Beale:  listen to what gets said about him by the two and about marriage in general. This is what I copied down from the 1974 documentary and not HBO’s re-creation. It’s Edie Jr. speaking first, in that hoity-toity accent she assumes when she dwells on lost glories.

“My father believed in ruining his children’s lives,” she says. Then, in an odd non-sequitur, “He wanted me to get a Masters Degree.”

“You were scared of your father,” says Edie Senior who with her wispy hair and her ruined partly nude  body seems much more down-to earth. Back to Edie Jr now: 

“He said the only thing to BE was a professional woman. He did say that, didn’t he, mother? He didn’t want me to get married.”

And the mother says, “I don’t think it’s important for people to get married. I don’t believe that at all. Don’t you want some of this butter pecan?[eating ice cream straight from the carton] “Mmmmm!”

“If you can’t get a man to propose to you you might as well be dead,” says Edie Jr. “These women who don’t marry, what are they proving? I think it’s disgusting! They have to go around with dogs or other women… It’s disgusting!”

But dogs are lovely!” says her mother. “I’ll take a dog any day!” She could have been saying all that in this shot here:

Only the whole time neither is looking at the other, or at the camera. The surviving Maysles brothers says in the commentary on the Grey gardens DVD that they often didn’t seem to be even thinking about what they were saying much less listening to each other. It harrows me. When people get marooned and sealed away as the old and the forgotten often do: the thought just harrows me.

 the real Maysles with their real subjects

and below here, the real Edie I think, and not Drew Barrymore playing her

The Bouvier Cousins, Jackie & Edie

Listening to those tapes of Jackie talking on the Diane Sawyer Show last night made me realize all over again what an amazing job Drew Barrymore did playing her maternal cousin Edith Bouvier Beale, ‘little Edie’ as she was called, in HBO’s Emmy-winning Grey Gardens. Drew nailed Edie’s accent which was just like Jackie’s as my ear caught it, that is to say 10% the Hamptons-and-the-Upper-East-Side and 90% the Social Register. More fascinatingly, Edie looked very much like “Jahkleen,” though she was 12 years older than the girl who would be First Lady.

But can you see Jackie as you look at these picture of her cousin? I see Caroline too in “little Edie” who died in 2002 at 84. Can you see it above?

How about here?

I see Caroline here for sure . And here ,right?

How little we differ from our kinfolk on a genetic level. Edie and Jacqueline even had the same teeth, inward-leaning with a fair amount of exposed gum in the upper jaw. And yet one jumped through all the approved hoops and landed on her feet; married, led a dignified life and did a beautiful job raising two children. The other? Was it schizophrenia? Some kind of psychotic break it seems. There’s a story that she climbed up into a tree at Grey Gardens and and set her hair on fire. Such was her level of suffering. 

Click below to see the artistry HBO used to combine the acting of Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange as ‘big’ Edie and ‘little’ Edie with the actual footage from the 1975 Maysles brother’s documentary film on the real Bealeses. You almost can’t tell which is which.