Let’s travel out of continuity – I will do so repeatedly in the blog! – and go to the FIRST meeting with Ms. Streep:
So – everyone was pretty excited on this one particular day at Paramount Studios in LEMONY SNICKET base camp- well, at least I was VERY excited, for sure.
It’s Meryl Streep’s first day of work on the film – I mean – MERYL STREEP – THE Meryl Streep, THE DEER HUNTER, SOPHIE’S CHOICE, . . .(am I beginning to look like a fan here??! Again?)
. . . . and we’re going to work with her. (we being my babies, and me, too – because when the babies are onset, so am I. And as I said earlier, sometimes I’m hidden in the very shot, and will eventually be under HER very feet, though I don’t know this now! Sometimes I will even be in her wardrobe – you’ll see that another time)
I had sent a very respectful request to Ms. Streep, asking if she could possibly find the time to visit with the babies and myself in our Baby Trailer, so that Kara and Shelby could become “acclimated” to her. By this time in the shoot, I was second only to Mommy and Daddy in the babies’ world, and Debb was great about giving me the lead in terms of getting the twins used to new actors.
I had bought two new “babies” – the girls term for any doll – for Meryl to give to the girls, so that she could be a new person bearing gifts. (Yes, I am not above bribery – and used O’s EVERY day for exactly that purpose!)
After getting the girls fed and diapers changed along with Mom and Lexy’s help, I’m playing with the girl on the floor when . . . .
suddenly . . . there is a knock on the trailer door! I open it and . . .
HOLY COW THERE SHE IS! . In full costume and make-up is The Lady herself – someone I’ve wanted to meet for only half my life. And she is so beautiful that it takes my breath away. And she is so kind and real and regal – which will be proven over and over and over again for the next six months – that she quite takes my heart.
Actually, she has it still.
But back to the floor:
I smile, like a loon,probably (happily I can’t see my own face at the moment and therefore be mortifired at how obviously moonstruck I am) and invite her in. The girls look at her warily, and quickly jump into my lap (Shelby) and behind my back (Kara). By this time, they have figured out that New People equals me handing them off and disappearing sometimes, and they are none too thrilled with that . They like me right in front of them . . . or to be happily ensconced in my arms.
I tell them that our new friend, Aunt Jo, has come to play with us. And then Meryl Streep SITS RIGHT DOWN ON THE FLOOR OF THE TRAILER (which no doubt has stepped-up-and-ground-to-powder O’s, spilled OJ, (and various other things best not thought about !) absorbed into the carpet) and says “Hello, girls!”
Oy, I’m plotzing! I introduce myself and the babies, telling her which twin is which – something I will do everyday for the full seven months of the shoot for the benefit of the entire crew, most of whom will never learn to tell them apart. That amazes me – because, except for a few weird times when one actually morphed into the other one, I never had trouble telling them apart. (You can ask Lexy about that morphing thing – it was WEIRD!!!) I surreptitiously slip the new doll babies into Meryl’s hands, which she quickly slides behind her back, and explained their purpose. Meryl lights up and thanks me for the forethought, and immediately brings the dolls from behind her back and starts using them as puppets, making voices for the girls.
They continue to watch her with big eyes for a while, and Kara slowly comes out from behind me, to plop into my lap next to her sister. Now, I’m not really that big – I’m five feet tall and weighed about a hundred and five pounds – but my lap ALWAYS had room for both my girls, no matter how squished I may have been. I cannot describe how my love for those babies grew day by day, from the very first day I met them at the first set of auditions, to the night we wrapped and I cried hysterically into Walter Parkes and Laurie Macdonald’s generous hugs. How their little arms around me healed all wounds and lit up my world.
The definition of the job, the source of pride, the challenge – and yes, the little bit of heartbreak – is to cultivate all that trust and love within the babies hearts and minds for you, and then be able to transfer it away from yourself and to all of those with whom the babies work.
The girls become more and more intrigued, and eventually sit on the floor near Meryl, leaving the sanctuary of “Daw’s lap. As I told you in yesterday’s blog, they can’t quite say my name yet – not the whole thing.
I ask Meryl’s permission to touch her face – she readily gives it.
I gently first cup each of the babies cheeks, saying “good – good”, and then my own, and then Meryl’s, each time repeating “good” in a very low, soothing voice. The girls are smiling, and Meryl has fallen in love with them. Soon, they will fall in love with her, too. I will make sure.
And so our first acclimation session has been accomplished. Next time I will gently, slowly and quietly leave the trailer, and the girls will be alone with Meryl. On the pathway – to the transfer of affection. The hardest but most important part of a wrangler’s job. Transferring affection.
Oh my aching heart.
But oh, a source of pride.
©Dawn Jeffory-Nelson 2013
All Rights Reserved