Read an extract from Wildflower by Drew Barrymore, a portrait of Drew’s life in stories as she looks back on the adventures, challenges, and incredible experiences of her earlier years.
When I woke up in the hospital, I glanced over and took a deep look at my new baby girl, who I had decided with my husband to name Frankie. She looked peaceful and sweet after her journey into the world—what a ride, huh, kid? I watched her, and after a little while she really looked at me. She had need in her eyes; my first daughter, Olive, was born independent and has never given me that needy look to this day. As much as I loved having this moment, something felt strange. I started feeling like a roller- coaster free fall was happening in my stomach. My head clenched tight, and tears started to pour out of me uncontrollably. Then came the sounds. Because I couldn’t keep them inside. The wailing sobs were loud, and as I gasped for air it hit me . . . Frankie looked like my mom.
Like my mother, Frankie is also a Taurus in the astrological realm of life. And here she lay, looking at me, and I felt so many emotions that I simply could not classify them individually. This was a mosaic of things that made no sense together, yet if I broke it down, it might help me stop convulsing.
OK, number one, I asked myself, what is my worst fear? Well, the answer was easy; my biggest emotional button in life is my mother. I am a girl trying to be a woman, and being a mother first now, but I was being dragged and hog-tied back to childhood stuff that maybe I have never put to bed.
OK, I said to myself, you know that this is your biggest issue, but is it having a girl of your own and the fear of repeating any- thing that took place in your own childhood? I calmed myself by thinking through the last year and a half with Olive, my Libra, and how my life is as safe and consistent, stimulating and loving, as it could possibly be. There is proof of an existence that quells my worst fear!
OK, next. Is it that she looks like her? No, because she looks like me too, and yes, of course we both are going to resemble people in our families on both sides. But when Olive was born, she had the biggest, most beautiful wide-apart cat-shaped mega-eyes that there was already a point of difference. She actually seemed to take a bit after my mother-in-law, Coco, whom I cannot begin to describe how much I love, worship, and am simply in awe of. Coco is elegant, kind, smart, worldly, and a great, great, great mother! Her maiden name is Franco, and it was an inspiration for Frankie.
But Frankie was looking more like my family here in this hospital in Los Angeles, California, on April 22, 2014, and I was facing something I had managed to avoid with Olive. I was being asked if I could dig deep and heal this pain from the relationship I had with my Taurus mother while I was looking at my Taurus daughter.
I was born in 1975 to a single mother who was doing her best while still being young herself. She would actually never tell me her age—one of many strange mysteries I had with this woman—but I gather she was in her midtwenties when she had me. Still very much a hedonist, she brought me up with zero protection, zero consistency, and, as is known, we parted ways when I was four- teen, and we have rarely spoken since. I still support her—I must know that she is taken care of or I simply cannot function. I am grateful to this woman for bringing me into this world, and it would crush me to know she was in need anywhere. It is not who I am to harbor any anger for the fact that our life together was so incredibly unorthodox. I want only to say thank you to her, be- cause I love my life and it takes every step to get to where you are, and if you are happy, then God bless the hard times it took you to get there. No life is without them, so what are yours, and what did you do with the lessons? That is the only way to live.
Another philosophy I have is that nothing is taken away with- out it being replaced, and with that truth enters the love of my life when I was nineteen years old in Seattle, Washington. I was at a bar with friends, I was making a movie up there, and it was the ’90s, a very wild and inspired time for music and culture. But movies were the only thing on my mind. I had done a western film about two years before, and the whole experience made me want to make movies about girls. Capable girls. Girls who want to do what boys do but who still want to love the boys and want to run and tell their girlfriends about it and have each other’s backs. I was figuring out who I wanted to be in the world, and I would sit around making mixtapes and trying to dream up what I could in life.
So there I was, sitting there in a booth, and my friend Jim said, by the way, my sister Nan is coming to meet us; she will be here for a few days. Great! And in walks this blond-haired, blue-eyed, big-teeth Breck girl with the most winning, warm, ingratiating smile I had ever seen. Nancy Juvonen was a girl who sang the songs of John Denver. She worked on planes as a flight attendant. She did semesters in Costa Rica and England. She worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming. She grew up in San Francisco and New Hampshire. Her life was about adventure and trying things. She was organized like no one I had ever met. She charted and diagramed everything and was a great planner and loved “board vision.” You would hear her say things like “slow and steady wins the race,” and she loved words like “EARN.” She would become my partner in business. She would take me in like a sister; she would change my whole world in so many important ways. Nancy Juvonen is the replacement for the absence of family. She was my gift in life. And she is a Taurus.
Nan and I would start to actually articulate our vision when we started with our company, Flower Films. We wanted to tell stories. In the era of the early ’90s power-suit woman, we vowed we would not abandon our JanSport backpacks. But what we would do was constant homework. We studied everything. We made lists on everything. We read everything. And we built relationships with people we admired and respected rather than party with the beautiful people.
We created a cozy, house-like environment at Flower Films on Sunset Boulevard. Nan’s office was warm and truly lived in. That’s where all our conversations and dreams took place. Her office was warm and utterly organized, and everything was labeled. Inbox, outbox, pictures hanging on the wall, pillows, and mantras by Abraham Lincoln in little frames placed on her desk. My office was a case study in disorganization, with papers all over my desk and no feng shui whatsoever. We did Christmas cards every year together, and it felt like we were creating traditions I just never had. In life outside the office we would road-trip across America in an RV. We would travel the world. We would adopt dogs. But the most important thing to know is that Nan never let me get away with anything . . . “YOU’RE LATE, and your time management sucks. You are selfish, and when you walk into a room apologizing for being late you are making it all about you. You are causing yourself and everyone else distractions and anxieties, and if you were just on time you could avoid all of this drama, for everyone.” Jesus.
I was always hurt in the moment. One time I called her to tell her I wanted to direct. “You’re not ready. You’re too disorganized and you’re still late and you cannot waste people’s money and time. That is not leadership, and directors are leaders.” I told her I would call her back and hung up and burst into tears.
“Don’t ever drink and drive! Vote!” All of these wonderful things my parents should have taught me. I was so grateful for her tough love because it let me know time and again she cared, and for the record I was never late when I directed, thanks to her. She was willing to fight to help me get to my better self.
No matter what we go through, we always come out stronger. I have spent most holidays of my life with her family; she was the maid of honor at my wedding; and she is the family I never had until I made my own. And she still is. Twenty-two years she has been my beacon of light and goodness. She’s also the most fun person ever. And if you’re looking for the best advice on love, look no further. We’ve made many films about relationships, and on one particular one called Fever Pitch, she met her husband, Jimmy Fallon, and the perfect girl met the perfect guy. And although she hates when I call her perfect, to me she is.
Most of all, Nan was there to always teach me that if you stay emotionally balanced and responsible in life you are able to have the real joy. The earned joy. Back when we were just starting out, she lived in a small bachelorette apartment in West Hollywood. I remember walking in and seeing a yellow sign on her fridge that said “HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.” I stared at it. I loved it, but it took me twenty years to realize that it’s the word “choice” that is so powerful. You must make that choice all the time. And the people I follow in life are the kind of people who are capable of making that choice all the time. Consistently.
She would also tell me that when I felt lost, the best thing to do was write! And as a lover of journals, this really spoke to me. And wouldn’t you know it, another lady I love, Kate Capshaw Spielberg (Scorpio!) got me a five-year journal after Olive was born. And when I was a brand-new mother and experiencing fear and worry like I have never felt, this pink leather-bound journal was delivered to my door with a note that read, “Start writing to your daughter and keep it up every day! Love, Kate.” I held this care package of a journal in my hand and I thought of what Nan always said. And I have written in it every day of my life since then, chronicling Frankie’s and Olive’s lives; and when my daughters are older, it will be my gift to them.
So who was I in this hospital room? Was I a damaged kid with mother issues, or was I a woman who has gone out there and fought hard for my lessons and actually found great role models? Great people, like Nan, have led me and lifted me out of feeling helpless or scared and given me power. Now I need to pass on this wisdom and strength. Was I going to cower in this room when this kid, this new beautiful baby, needs me? Hell no. I got up, so sore and groggy, and picked up my baby Taurus. And I kissed her face over and over. I vowed, just as I did with Olive, that I would always be her warrior. I am their Pisces mother. Mother of drag-ons! I am strong. I have learned. I love Love and have plenty to give. It is my powerful destiny that I am supposed to raise two good girls into two great women! All right. Here we go, my beautiful little girls. Here we go.
Wildflower by Drew Barrymore (Virgin Books) is now available.