It’s that time of the year when many young people go to their senior prom. You longtime readers might remember a few columns I’ve written about my granddaughter, Autumn, especially when she conned me into skydiving.
A story I’ve never written for you is of the day I helped Autumn get ready for prom. Most people know Burt and I gave up our South Beach home in the late ’90s and returned to L.A. to spend more time with family. I blame Autumn because of how often she said: “Listen, Beverly Jo, you have to move back here so we can bond!” From the time she could talk, she called me by my Christian name – never Grandma, Yaya, Bubbe, Nana or any normal grandmotherly names.
However, our relationship has never been quite normal — we both march to a different drummer, and it’s not the same drummer.
Burt and I found a house one mile from Autumn. But it wasn’t long before realizing we didn’t belong in California anymore. However, we kept our mouths shut and devoted ourselves to family time — secretly knowing one day we would return to our beloved Oregon.
With her parents both working, I was often asked to take Autumn to various appointments, such as the dermatologist and an unexpected surgery to remove a nasty melanoma. Autumn was terrified, and so was I. The surgery was successful, and Autumn paid attention to the lecture from the follow-up oncologist and his warnings about California sunshine and teenagers in pursuit of a tan.
And then one day in May, when Autumn was 17, the phone rang. “Mom,” said my daughter urgently, “I can’t leave the office, and its prom day. You have to help Autumn dress. Her friends will be coming in a limo, and somebody needs to take pictures.” In less than five minutes I pulled up in front of their house. Autumn was in an upstairs window yelling: “Beverly Jo, please get up here and help me.” It’s a wonder I could hear her over the blast of music coming from her room.
This is where I remind you that I was raised in a very conservative Midwest family, and when I went to my senior prom, it’s a wonder my mother didn’t have me in a dress with a turtleneck. I raced up the stairs and collided with my stark naked granddaughter. Her long hair was styled on top of head. She had just showered and lathered her body with lotion. Did I mention she was dancing to the loud music? Autumn pulled me into her bedroom where her prom dress was draped over a chair. “Quick, Beverly Jo!” she ordered, tossing me a small box from Victoria’s Secret.
“What’s this?” I asked, opening the box. Inside were four small round strange-looking circles. “Peel off the sticky stuff,” she said. “My dress is backless, and I can’t wear a bra!” It took me a few seconds to figure out where two of these round puppies needed to go. Meanwhile, Autumn is still dancing in front of me, her arms going every which way (as was her bosom) and my assignment was to paste pasties on her you-know-whats. Heaven knows I tried, but they slid right off. When the second pastie fell off, it dawned on me that nothing was going to stick because of the lotion. I told her to go wash off the lotion and she danced merrily off to her bathroom, leaving me kneeling on the floor of her bedroom looking at two useless pasties on the rug. Thank heavens the box contained an extra set. The music was deafening, and I’m questioning my sanity about bonding with grandchildren. It was time to finally get firm with her.
When she came dancing back into her bedroom, I said, trying to sound like a grownup, “Listen young lady, this is what you are going to do before you drive me nuts. Turn down that noise and stand quietly in front of me because if these last two things don’t stick to your boobs, you are not going to the prom!” Autumn stared at me like I was a space alien, but she did as told, and the pasties did what they were designed to do.
I carefully slid this long, elegant ultra-slim dress over her tall, elegant ultra-slim body. Then I sat back and melted at the sight of her. The limo pulled up in front of the house, and nine teenagers piled out, all shouting for Autumn. Somehow I was able to round up all the kids, which was like herding cats. At any given time it seemed somebody had to run to the bathroom, but eventually I was able to snap a few good photos. As I followed them out to the limo and watched them pile in, a beautiful, familiar, smiling face poked out from an open car window.
“Bye, Beverly Jo, thanks for everything. I love you!”
So was it worth leaving the Oregon coast to bond with my granddaughter? I think so, but I’ve never quite forgiven her for making me jump out of that perfectly good airplane!
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her cat, Purrfect. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor.” The book, with all proceeds going to the Rotary International Foundation, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]