Many readers of this blog have asked that I write about aspects of my life outside of the show. During shooting there are not so many of those, and one can only post so many pictures of the puppy, no matter how adorable he is.
But here I am, in between seasons, back at our home in Southern California, and trying to straddle two completely different worlds, different realities on two different continents. Seemed like a good time to write about something other than the show, but still related to it, because there is no aspect of my life it doesn’t touch.
I am still working, after all. I am just trying to do it from another continent. It sounded like a good idea.
I would set everything up before I left, so it could function without me. The process of making close to a thousand extras, would be all figured out before I left, and then the actually construction process would be managed by my very capable team.
I would come home and design the principal costumes, pick the fabrics, and then those would get made upon my return to Scotland in January.
It IS a great plan. Without it, we would be dead. It will save us, and probably save the show, allowing them to actually shoot. I keep saying that if I do this right, no one will ever know how bad it would have been without this plan. But convincing people that a disaster is coming that they cannot see, have no knowledge of. and don’t necessarily believe you know what you are talking about is tricky. Chicken Little and The Little Red Hen come to mind.
If you avert potential disaster that no one recognizes is there, then no one will ever know what could have been.
I know. Been there done that. (Carnivale) It gets really ugly when the disaster you have been warning about, actually happens. It doesn’t matter if you warned everyone, and they didn’t listen, it will still be your fault. Better to fix it behind the scenes, and hope the people who are forced to do what you say, don’t mutiny and throw you overboard, because they have to prepare for a disaster they can’t see either.
Anyway, I digress. See? All roads lead back to Rome.( and of course it has been a constant series of fires to put out every day. Best laid plans, and all that)
I come home and enter the reality of a home left in the hands of my wonderful husband and our 13 year old daughter, for a year. There are many wonderful things to be said about how the two of them have not only managed not to kill themselves or burn the house down, in my absence, but have forged a wonderful and magical father/daughter world. It is a lovely, lovely thing. But for the purposes of this essay, I will be discussing what has not been happening. I am not sure how many old lunches I have found in Little Moore’s room, or that some of last years Christmas decorations were waiting my return to be put away. Coming home was like some sort of surreal Twilight Zone episode. EVERYTHING was exactly where it was when I left. And I am not talking about furniture, I am talking about mail.
You get the picture.
So I have been digging out. Once I got things righted, I have been killing myself to rehab this place into a home, and system that is set up to support a home without a wife and mother in it.There can be nothing in this house that they do not use. They are not going to be baking cakes or making bread. They don’t need a candy thermometer or any rye flour. Closets must be organized, bill and mail systems set up, the garage MUST be cleared out, the home has to become minimalist enough to run without me here maintaining things.
Why? They are both relatively competent people. But this is not their area of expertise. Ron writes amazing television, but he just does not know what to do with mail. Little Moore is 13, and like most 13 year olds, finds picking her clothes up off the floor, an arduous task. Ron will never notice the piles of crap everywhere. I often find the two of them operating in the dark, literally. They have some sort of aversion to turning on lights, so if I am not up first in the morning I find them toiling away at breakfast and school prep, in the dark. What is that??? We have light, why don’t they use them?
They both always say, “it is so much cozier and homier when you are here.” I say, “well you can start by turning on some lights!” But it does not penetrate.
Once again, I will defend them against my own writing. Ron makes fresh waffles for LM’s breakfast during the week, and fresh breakfast burritos. I actually got a call from him in Scotland on a Tuesday afternoon (morning in California), asking me how to keep hollandaise sauce from breaking. I was deep in whatever that days crisis was at work, and asked what the hell he was asking about hollandaise sauce for. He explained that he had been trying to make Eggs Benedict that morning, but the sauce broke. ON A TUESDAY????? Seriously?
But how sweet is that? Insane, but incredibly sweet.
So my time here has been interesting. Hence my earlier post about being a little tired.
Like so many women, working outside the home, has not decreased the work inside the home. I am not sure how this all works. Being in Scotland is much easier, because there I essentially go back to being a single woman working in the film business. Cuilean and I stop at Marks and Spencer on the way home, pick up a stir-fry, or a thing of lentil soup. We both eat dinner in about 20 minutes, climb into bed, and start doing the rest of the day’s work. It is a fairly simple life, work aside.
Not so much here. People expect meat sauce and roast chicken, they need to be picked up from school, and a household needs to be managed. There is no Mary Poppins here (I need one).
But I sill have to design that goddamned red dress and about 99 other costumes. Fabrics have to be chosen and purchased, so the machine can keep moving on that other continent. And I like so many other women, have to figure out how to juggle it all.
Trying to push down that surge of panic, always just below surface. Which thing shall I ponder at 5am. how to help LM study for her SSAT’s so she can go to the high school she has her heart set on, or how the hell am I going to deal with the shoe issue looming in Scotland.
Can I get the bricks off of the patio so the 200 year old oak tree does not die? Can I get the shelving up in garage so that an actual car can in there, after all the moving boxes have been emptied and their contents dispersed.
Do I have a Thanksgiving turkey ordered 6 days before the day? No I do not, and I have no idea what anyone would like for Christmas. But given the amount of useless stuff I have moved out of this house in the last month, no one may be getting anything anyway. (Just need to figure out how to pull that one off.)
Why do I do this? For my family and their well being? Yes, of course. I know my absence leave a hole. LM says, “I hate to admit it, but we do need your nagging.” I want their lives to feel complete, and for them to feel my love and care even if I am not here. I also want to come home next year, and maybe not have my time here be spent in exhausting rehab. We will see if my system works.
So I muddle forward, or perhaps charge is a better word. I know I will leave here with things in much better shape than when I left last January.
As I travel further into this blog, and writing, I realize that what I sit down to write is rarely what I end up with. It is a catharsis, a “stream of consciousness”.
What comes out of this post for me? Working women. The lives of working women. Let me be frank. I have it pretty good. I come from and live in a pretty privileged world. College educated (more or less), affluent, I do not face what most women in this country, in this world face, every day. I am not minimizing my life, it is damned hard. I live on a different continent from my loved ones, and I work at a grueling job that requires almost a 24/7 commitment. But at least I am paid well in return. That said, I’m not working two jobs to make ends meet, while my husband does the same, or having my entire salary going to childcare costs. And my husband is staring down how to make hollandaise sauce instead of the drive through line for dinner after picking the kids up from day care at 6:00 at night.
There is no point in making comparisons. I am not sure which segment of women has it easy, and even if they exist, I am not sure how appealing that life might be. A life made up of trips to the manicure shop and endless yoga classes, just seems like a different kind of hard.
So, hats off and a pat on the back to all of us. (And to Claire, a woman who continues to inspire)
Let’s all take our shoes off at the end of this day, and have a communal sigh of relief, along with a cocktail, that another day of women’s work is done.