I first heard her crisp, regal, British accent over the phone one day while working as an intern. “Hello Darling,” she said. “This is Natasha. With whom am I speaking?” Once I gave her my name, she never forgot it in four years of phone conversations. Every time she called, no matter who answered, it was always “Hello Darling.” It felt classy and very Old-Hollywood glamorous.
I heard her voice at its most upbeat (when talking about her sons or about a film she was about to do) and at its most devastating, in a voice message she left while trying to locate her close friend (my co-worker) right after her husband, Liam Neeson’s nearly fatal motorcycle accident. The fear and desperation in her voice was chilling.
A year later, my friend became her assistant and called me to do some script reading for her. “I told her how much you love adaptations,” said my friend. “And she’s sending a book she’s passionate about.” The book was Asylum by Patrick McGrath. It came with a handwritten note and a copy of a first draft of the script. “Be honest” was all the note said. I devoured the book. It was incredible, it was the perfect story to get lost in. It would make a great movie. My notes started with “This must get made.” Natasha had an instinct and went with it. Seven years later, with many writers and directors circling the material, hoping she would give it up, she raised the money and got the movie made on her terms: script approval, starring role, producer. The movie that ended up making its way to theaters wasn’t quite the one she envisioned, but it got MADE. Despite the cries of “She’s too old to play the lead,” “The project needs a name actress,” “Can’t she get her husband to play opposite her?” She projected her passion on the screen.
I wrote her a note after seeing the film, congratulating her on her intuition and fortitude. We exchanged a few emails after that, but then lost touch. Last year I saw her at a preview of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which starred her mother. I watched her watch her mother on stage with complete joy and pride. We exchanged a quick hello after the show, having not seen each other in five years and even then, having only met a few of times in person. After reminding her who I was, a smile lit up her face, she grabbed my hands and said, “Hello, Darling.”
North Captiva Island is accessible only by boat whereas the sister island to the South has a causeway connecting it to Fort Myers. That’s about all we know about the place and information is limited. Until Sunday morning, we are guests of the North Captiva Island Club (NCIS, as I quickly learned thanks to Emily who works for Island Girl, the boat service that ferried us over from the mainland, love calling it that). The 17 minute ride from Pine Island Marina, with 13 passengers a captain and his mate, was swift and smooth. Our little boat replete with bags of groceries packed in plastic, suitcases, a vacuum cleaner (not ours) and bait (also not ours) pulled into a beautiful little channel set off by mangroves before sunset on Tuesday where we checked in and learned a teeny bit about the lay of the (is)land.
We were greeted by a sunburned young twenty-something named Josh and his sweet little dog, Gizmo, a “morkie,” think maltese and yorkie mix. Together, they showed us our forest green Club Car golf cart, number 77 and how to work the headlight. He loaded and hauled our luggage and six bags of groceries for five days of meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in a separate mini-version of a flat bed attached to his “service” cart and led us to our watermelon colored tree house located on the far side of the air strip. The kids got a kick out of the grass covered “strip.” The grown-ups grumbled to themselves over the fear of sounds from air traffic.
It didn’t take long for the four of us to settle in to the multi-level residence and hit the roof via the metal spiral staircase for expansive views looking over the island toward the Gulf of Mexico. The kids quickly dialed in to the multi-media offerings that include an X-Box, four televisions and multiple remotes. The physician/scientist/husband graciously offered to unpack my belongings while I prepared our chicken salad and quinoa dinner with the assistance of the 11-year old sous-chef. He confirmed that I wouldn’t balk at his choice of drawers or organization. “No way, I leave it up to you,” and truly, I was grateful for the gesture. We opted out of the St. Patrick’s Day poolside party later in the evening and watched TV altogether. The television remotes posed a challenge but in this age of technical challenges, I am happy to report that I was the one who successfully tuned in and out of desired channels. Yeah for Mom. Meanwhile, no one believes me but the house sways, it’s on stilts, built to withstand the harshest of storms after Hurricane Charley devastated most of the Island in August 2004.
The chirp of crickets could be heard in between gusts of wind blew fast and furiously throughout most of the night and sleep well we did, windows open, fresh air on our faces.
So here we will be with little to do but spend time together, search for seashells, kayak, bike ride, rest and relax. And spend time
on away from our computers. xo sSs