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Flappers, dreams and stepping out

Posted: Friday, Oct 18th, 2013

Bobbie Lippman, left, is dressed in keeping with “The Great Gatsby” theme for Habitat for Humanity’s recent gala. She is pictured with Brett Quick and Gina Nielsen.

I almost said “no” when Julie Hanrahan invited me to join her and Mark at the Columbia Bank table for a recent gala at The Hallmark – a fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity.  “It’ll be such fun,” said Julie, “and the theme is The Great Gatsby, so we will all get gussied up. Gina and Brett are going, and you can come with them.”   It’s too soon, I thought, and it won’t be any fun without Burt.  I decided to sleep on it and let Julie know the next day.  That night I dreamed of Aunt Victoria, who appeared so real in the dream.  Perhaps she showed up because I mentioned her and her wisdom in last week’s column. Who knows?  I stopped questioning such things a long time ago.

I might be over-analyzing this, but Aunt Vic, born in 1898, was definitely a flapper, and I’ve seen photos of her looking like she could have appeared in The Great Gatsby movie.  Most of us can look back and think of a special mentor who deeply influenced our lives.  Such a person was my Aunt Vic. I lived with her in Seattle for awhile when I was 17. She was recently widowed and had gone back to work as an RN.  I personally believe nurses are more realistic about life and death than most people.  She also had a wicked sense of humor, which made me love her all the more.  How well I remember an evening in a home of some relative when I was about seven.  If there was anything Vic could not stand it was a boring occasion. Picture a living room full of stodgy Scandinavians sitting around quietly drinking coffee.  I was curled up at my mother’s feet when suddenly Aunt Victoria left the room.  A kid knows when something is up. She soon reappeared wearing my flannel pajamas, which she could barely hold together across her ample bosom. For what its worth she kept on her heavy-duty bra and girdle – the kind worn by most old ladies of her day  (Old? She was in her early 50s, but when you’re a little kid anyone over 13 is old.)  With a straight face, she waltzed around the room like the most fashionable model until everyone started laughing. She did things like that. If I had known then about the Spoon on the Nose trick, I would have taught her how to do it.  

Another memorable occasion, this time when I was 17, happened when Aunt Victoria decided to host a luncheon for the new pastor of her church.  About 20 church ladies were sitting around the living room, balancing trays of food on their laps, with everyone acting very stiff, proper and serious.  Suddenly, the poor minister lost track of his tray, and the whole thing hit the floor upside down.  I quickly glanced over at Aunt Vic to see what she would do. Without missing a beat, she flipped her own tray to the floor and everyone broke up laughing – especially the surprised pastor, who was saved from being embarrassed. Can you imagine what I learned from this?  Sure you can – the importance of making people comfortable no matter the occasion.

Aunt Victoria taught me a great deal about life and love during that time with her. One rainy Seattle night we were sitting by the fire, and she said, “You know, Bobbie, when I lost your Uncle Paul, I lost the best friend I ever had.”   Those words stayed with me during a “friendless” first marriage, but especially during the 44 years of Burt being my best friend.  I am hearing from so many readers, men and women, who are dealing with the loss of their partner and best friend.  A few emails have included that incredible quote, “It hurts just as much as it’s worth.”  

Getting back to that dream when Aunt Vic showed up (and I swear she was wearing a flapper outfit), her message was loud and clear: “Get yourself together and go to that party. Life is too short, and you know it!”  Did I go? Did I gussie up? Did I enjoy it?  What do you think? 

Today, as you read this, I have been without my best friend for exactly three months.  Burt would have loved the Gatsby party, and I am somewhat suspicious he sent Aunt Victoria in her outrageous outfit to push me into going.  To be honest, it felt like both of them were at the party whooping it up and having a great time.

Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her dog, Charley, and a shelter cat named Lap Sitter. Bobbie can be contacted at bobbisbeat@aol.com

For the complete article see the 10-18-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-18-2013 paper.

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