Friday, December 5, 2014

Jody, Olivia, and the Two Edies

I know there is a lot going on in the world right now. My little blog post seems somewhat trivial. No. Correction. It seems completely trivial. Yet, it is not. I know this because I know my desire to express myself through writing keeps me feeling happy. My happiness is a big concern for me. The world will go on in all its insanity and I will sit here and try to make sense of it in contemplative glimpses and brevities.

It's been another one of those weeks that seemed to centre around the theme of womanhood and how things go for us ladies within the confines of various situations. It all began, this time around, with a walk. It always begins with a walk... My husband and I walked to the library on Saturday and I checked out a book and a DVD ("The Turn of the Screwby Henry James and Grey Gardens, the film featuring Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore). I wasn't totally satisfied with the film (only because it piqued my interest for the real story, not because I didn't like it) so I proceeded to watch the actual 1975 documentary, also called Grey Gardens, via YouTube. As for "The Turning of the Screw?" That's literally another story for another day.

The "Two Edies" 
Grey Gardens, 1975 documentary directed by 
Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, 
David Maysles, and Muffie Meyer.
And now I am going to discuss the documentary assuming you have already seen it. If not, well do it now. Then come back and read on...

Of course, I am very late to the game in reference to understanding the comedy and tragedy that surrounds the story of the two Edies. Late as I am to my introduction, I loved them just the same. How many times have I wondered what will become of me if I don't get a career of some sort pulled together before I am too old (how old is too old, anyway?) I don't know where I think my husband is going to go, but I am always thinking of the worst case scenarios. This is a negative habit, I know.

I don't think my mother would or could care for me, when I am older, like Edie's mom cared for her. Then again, in this instance, I use the term care very loosely. On the other hand, I don't plan on hanging around my mother's bedroom eating ice-cream when I am in my fifties, either. The problem with either scenario is that sometimes, for women especially, we don't always get to choose our fates as carefully as we would like. The problem would be, for my mother and I, mustering the ability to live together harmoniously. It's happened in the past. We seemed to get along just fine when left to our own devices, but still... I don't necessarily want to push the boundaries anytime soon. The two Edies (mother and daughter) lived together by choice and also by force. The younger Edie found it easier to actually live with her mother than to spend her life worrying about her after her husband (Little Edie's father) left her. Her concern is a genuine expression of  natural affection, in my opinion. Otherwise, they would have killed each other, I think. The older Edie seemed to very obviously need the companionship of her daughter. Together, they made for some very interesting viewing.

What a treasure this documentary is, by the way. To have a bird's eye view into the lives of these two women, comparatively destitute in the land of plenty, is a commentary on the ills of the patriarchal systems within society that chews women up and spits them out into the cold. Even so, their beauty shines through the tragedy and they just kept on singing. I loved that. I don't know why necessarily, but I did. I mean, in the end, what is money compared to a song? In the very very end, which one will matter most, do you think? I say that easily right now because I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. I know I'd "sing" a different tune if I did not have these things. But I know you know what I mean.

My daughter and I had "quite a fight" of our own (wink wink) the other day. She sulked during our math class (we homeschool, you know) and I lost my patience with her. In my anger, I came at her with irrational scenarios about how we will never be a able to get along later in life if we can't make it through a simple math class (this is the effect of Grey Gardens working its way into my psychology). We parted ways. She went to her room. I sat on the couch thinking of what to do or say. In the end, I didn't do or say anything. I just waited for her to come to me. Eventually, she did. When she did, we both apologized to each other and then we sat at the table and talked for a good long while about all the things she had on her mind (and there was a lot because she's a deep thinker like her momma). By the end of the conversation, the sparkle in her eye was restored and she even called me out for some of the things I had said in to her in anger. She said "mom, that's not you" in a most serious voice. This, dear reader, is a new development in the saga of the relationship between my daughter and I. For the most part, this child seems to have enjoyed keeping me at a very generous distance since she was very young. Her sense of independence revealed itself to me when she was only 8 or 9 months old and started walking (walking right on out of my arms forevermore!). I knew she would never be clingy or overly affectionate way back then. She is 11 now. So, these words, as they were spoken, revealed to me that she keeps a much closer eye on me than she lets on. I was immediately struck by this. To have my daughter come to me and tell me that she knows me in such that she is able to point out my positive attributes in contrast to my negative behaviour was quite remarkable. It took a few layers of ice off of my stoney heart, that is for sure. In that moment, I could easily see that she is definitely on my side just as much as I am on hers. The mother-daughter dynamic between us is alive and well. That's a good (a very very good) thing to know. To know. I am human after all and I experience doubts about these things from time to time like everyone else.

This is my daughter (Olivia) painting my portrait. She was 7 years old at the time. 

And as I thought about all this, I considered what it might be like if she and I ended up eating ice-cream together in the cluttered bedroom of some otherwise empty house in our older years together. Would she and I keep on singing as well if that were the case? Would we keep on painting, drawing, and writing as we both do now? Or would she be unsatisfied with my company? A Grey Gardens scenario wouldn't be the best outcome for either one of us for obvious reasons, but what a comfort it is to think that maybe, just maybe, it would not be the worst either. These thoughts crossed my mind.

I don't know where or when I began to doubt these things in life that we are supposed to take for granted. I mean, of course my daughter loves me, but does she like me? I think she does! I will hope for a more secure outcome for the both of us in our later years than what the two Edies experienced, but if by chance we end up relying on each other a little more than I assumed we would, there's a chance would both be very happy about that. Interesting.

It's funny how, as you get older, the things you thought you could never live without fall to the background and the things that truly matter take centre stage. This was a concept that stood out for me in Grey Gardens as well. It seemed to me that the younger Edie was incredibly patient with her mother. She relinquished her career (such as it was or was not) to care for her mother. Her mother, incidentally, never seemed to give her daughter a moment's peace, but you could tell she loved her very much. Even though she constantly doted on her mother (in the documentary at least), Edie's overall patience seemed to triumph over her desire to escape Grey Gardens (and she did want to escape very badly). The lack of harshness between them was obvious. They did have words occasionally, but it never got ugly. That's rare, in my opinion. I haven't seen much of that in my lifetime, at least. It was a mysterious dynamic for genuine kindness, with no strings attached, to flourish above all the mess, the poverty, the frustrated singing and dancing careers. It flourished above all the eccentricities, the mess, the cats, and so on. It flourished because it is a natural thing for mother and daughter to love each other if they are lucky. It doesn't always happen that way. I liked that very much. It was comforting to me. I hope my daughter and I can remember to show each other that kind of patience and kindness as the years go by, at least, even if we don't end up living together in an old mansion with a bunch of cats and raccoons (which is not totally out of the realm of possibility).

Little Edie (Grey Gardens, 1975 documentary)


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