The Beautiful People

I watch some television and I read some magazines, so I am not oblivious to how the lifestyles of the rich and famous differ from those of us who are neither rich, nor famous, but it was not until these last few weeks that I learned first-hand HOW different their way of living can be…One of the properties I manage has been owned for 30 years by the same family who built it, and in these 30 years it has only been used as a vacation home by the family as a place for their friends and loved ones to gather.  Because it is so expensive to own a home on the water at the Jersey shore, many owners subsidize their expenses and property taxes by renting the property for a portion of the season.  None of the customers I work for ever did this, until now…

My client excitedly reported to me back in June that the house was going to be rented for two weeks by someone who is ‘on television and very famous,’ but I said that I didn’t want to learn the identity until right before the rental started because I didn’t want to feel “star struck.”  Secretly, well, not so secretly, as I immediately called my parents and told my boyfriend the news that it was going to be a person who is on television and very famous, but I was SO NERVOUS that I was finally going to speak to Jon Stewart, who is in fact a person on television and very famous, and is known to have vacationed on the small barrier island where I work, and I really wanted it to be him…  I saw him a few summers ago, buying blueberry muffins at the place where I used to get my daily coffee.  I wanted, at the time, to have him sit on the stool beside me and order breakfast so I could casually get into a conversation with him and mention that my dirty Sherwin Williams t-shirt is just the uniform for the job I do until he hires me as a writer…cue dream like string music and cartoon bubble popping up over head…”I wonder how I can tell him I would do anything to write for his show,” I thought, but alas, he paid and left and I sat there on my stool like an uninformed, highly uncreative, moron…so it was sort of relief, in an odd way, two days before the rental began that I learned THE NAME of the person on television who is very famous, because it was not Jon Stewart.

I worked very hard, as always, I do LOVE to clean, to ready the house, which is much like a 5Star resort with or without my loving touch (I have not ever been to a 5Star resort, but I take care of this house as if it were) and prepare the property for the arrival of this person who is on television and very famous so that this famous person would think our little island was just lovely, and the native people were so wonderful, and I had visions of this famous person saying to me, “oh yes! I would love to meet your granddaughters and your boyfriend’s daughter while I am here, we’ll pick a day next week” but that DID NOT EVEN COME CLOSE TO HAPPENING.  Within 16 hours of the arrival of this person I was told by the real estate agent handling the transaction that “she freaked out when the man came to clean the pool and is fiercely private and asked her assistant to tell me to tell you that you will not be needed on the property while they are here unless they call for you, their staff will take care of everything.”  SO…this person who is on television and very famous, who I don’t even work for, is pretty much firing me from my job for two weeks…I am pretty much eliminated even before I get to perform in the live knock-out round!

The day before, while using a squeegee on the sliding glass doors and mopping and packing away the last bits of my customer’s possessions I listened and watched…The A-List celebrity had a lot of “people.”  The staff was more than I imagined.  There were personal assistants, a household manager, a nanny for each child, a chef, a housekeeper, an assistant to the household manager, a body-guard, an assistant to the real estate agent who had organized the rental, also a mother and mother-in-law, and friends and family…all these people for a family of four to have a two-week vacation at the Jersey shore?!  I was befuddled.  How do a man and woman and two small children need so much help?  I wondered…as I observed and overheard all  of the goings-on & hubbub, as the people began to come and go in preparation for the A-List celebrity to arrive, at how I must have managed to get up,  get my kid ready for school, get myself ready to go, and get to work, clean, and pay the bills, and then feed us both, day after day, all by myself, for all those years, with no people??!!

The housekeeper was unpacking a box of candles shipped from Barneys New York and I sniffed them as she placed them throughout the first floor, and as she unpacked, I Googled these candles, and they were not brands I have seen other than in glossy magazine ads…They ranged in price from $70 to $130 EACH, according to the web site, and to be fair, smelled AMAZING…the housekeeper unpacked all TWELVE of them and I was beginning to get the vibe that being a person who is on television and very famous must be AMAZING…my customer loves when I cut a fresh arrangement of flowers for her each week when I clean, so I thought to myself, well, this A-List celebrity surely will enjoy a vase of fresh flowers too…so I did my usual arrangement in the master bath, and then I cut a fresh gardenia and put it in a bud vase for some added elegance, and was so delighted with my attention to detail, and then the assistant told me, “oh nice, the florist is coming tomorrow with flower arrangements in vases for the whole house” …oh…cue deflated balloon sound and frown face in cartoon bubble…making me feel a bit like a homemade arrangement from the yard was a pitiful example of beautifying one’s space!!

Two weeks flew by, and the famous person flew off, and I got to get back to the house yesterday…first things first, the staff did not take care of everything…it seems they took care of the celebrity and nothing else, particularly the plants.  DEAD plants in lovely planters, all over the deck…even the ones right next to the hose…nobody, not ONE OF THIS MYRIAD OF STAFF noticed that the plants were turning brown, then crisping up, day after day in July on a deck??!!  I felt so angry…I planted them all in May and tended to them lovingly and they last all summer in my care and now they are dead.  I’m not only out two weeks of work, ergo two weeks of pay for this property’s tasks, as I was not needed to clean, obviously, and then I was dismissed from my other chores, due to the celebrity’s claim of being fiercely sensitive about privacy, but they did not do what they said they were going to do!!!  That sort of thing makes my blood boil, A-list celebrity or not.  THEN I find out this person is not so fiercely private as I was told, as LOTS of people saw her on the beach, at a local shopping area and at a local amusement park!  SO yesterday I started work to get the house back in order, and to be fair, the cleaning lady from the house in Beverly Hills washed all the laundry and remade all the beds, which was beyond lovely of her, and honestly unexpected.  I emptied out the pantry to clean it and get my customer’s things back in order and found four full size jars of Hellman’s mayo.  This was shocking to me as I don’t think I even buy four jars a year, and the chef thought he might need four jars for 13 days!  SO an A-List celebrity comes to stay for two weeks in a house I take care of and all I have to say for it is that the chef bought a lot of mayonnaise…how anticlimactic can a blog get??!!

So in conclusion I got dismissed from my job due to exaggerated claims of extreme privacy issues, but then learn through social media that the celebrity goes to the most popular and populated destination on our small island, and then leaves nothing behind as a memento for my girls, not one thing, that I could have brought home to them…like a consolation prize for not getting to meet someone the really like, and by the way, said celebrity is being deleted from the girl’s playlist as I write…I admit that I looked for the candles yesterday as I started cleaning…I thought to myself, well, the girls did not get to meet this A-List celebrity  but maybe I will bring them each home the rest of the candles…we could each have one in our room as a memory of the time we Almost Met one of the beautiful people, but no…not even a stinking piece of wax left in a glass jar…nothing left at all as a memento of any sort, for a meeting that never was, just four unopened jars of Hellman’s.  Anticlimactic?  For sure.  Not one chair turned…

a long and winding road

Today is the birthday of my 1st friend from first grade.  We have been friends for nearly 42 years.  I have known her almost as long as I have known my own sister, and much like my sister and I, we have a shared history that simply connects us whether we are in good times or in bad, getting along swimmingly or barely speaking.  There is a quote from C.S. Lewis about friends, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”   It matters to me, a lot, that my 1st friend from first grade has been the most successful relationship of my life.  Every time I’ve had a break up, whether it was a 24 hour fling, a 24 day whirlwind, a 24 month romance, or a decade of commitment, I’ve found myself deeply contemplating “what must I have been thinking?” and yet, through all these years, I’ve never once questioned my relationship with her, and  she remains a constant love in my life.

We don’t get to pick our family; those relationships either flow or don’t, and  we either work at them fiercely, trying to ensure that they succeed, or we don’t make much effort at all, and their survival or death is simply a matter of how much we tolerate or how much we don’t.  I know a number of people who have ended, totally, relationships with people to whom they are related…but with a friendship, a relationship that only exists because we choose, there is a constant understanding that it is purposeful and intentional, the maintenance of it…we don’t HAVE to know each other and we don’t HAVE to like each other, we want to.  How many of us at some time have heard some relative of ours say we “should apologize” or “should call” or “ought to” do some act that expresses forgiveness or understanding, to a relative because of some quarrel or miscommunication?   I suspect most of us, but a friendship is quite different, we don’t have to do anything at all, it is by choice, and through deliberate actions that we keep a friendship viable.

My 1st friend from first grade and I have had periods of time where we neither spoke nor saw each other; some short phases of a lapsed relationship, and some V E R Y L O N G periods of little to no contact, but what I do know for sure, is that if during any one of those phases when we were absent from one another, if I needed her for anything or she needed me, we each would have been there without question for the other.  She never liked kids nor wanted children and it was not lost on me, at 18 in the hospital, just hours after I became a mother, that she was the first person who came to see me.  I admire her in many ways, most significantly in her ability and desire, and frankly her skills, at remaining true to herself, always.  She constantly follows her gut and goes where life feels right for her.  She says what she thinks and she does what she wants and I respect her so much for that.  I question myself constantly and I don’t think she ever has to.  When we were teenagers, we spoke on the phone every single day, now we speak on the phone once a year or so, mostly a text now and then, but when I am with her, it’s as if we still talked on the phone every night.  We are profoundly connected by time and history.  We went in very different directions in life, perhaps both by choice or both by circumstance…I think she is far more pleased with the choices she made than I am, but that is simply the past and what is done can’t be un-done.  She is still the person I use for my ‘password prompt question’ on any web site when it asks for  “best friend,” and she is still the person I think I would first want to tell if something wonderful happened to me, or something awful.  We’ve shared a long and winding road, even when we were moving in totally opposite  ways, and still we continually find ourselves traveling down different paths and neither of us knows for sure what view we might have next, or where our present route is going to lead us,  but much like having a compass to find North, I will know, no matter what my course, or what phase of life I’m in, or what part of my journey I am trying to forget, unravel, or erase from my mind, she will be part of my knowing who I am in this world…I am a woman who has a good friend.