Long-time readers have gotten used to an occasional story with an element of shock — like the time I took my blindfolded husband Burt to an X-rated motel for an anniversary surprise. I even packed a picnic basket with champagne. Readers got a description of that terribly tacky motel room with mirrors on the ceiling and crusty carpeting. We ended up looking, laughing and leaving.
I have often credited Dad for my sense of humor, but today it’s time for equal strokes. In fact, the whole point today (in my opinion) is the importance of a sense of humor.
My mother was not only a jokester, but a “hider.” When her kids ran home from school for lunch (no grammar school lunchrooms back then), we often had to search all over the house to find our mom — who would eventually jump out of a hiding place with a big “Boo!”
This leads me to revealing a not funny story about my first husband, a Boston physician who practiced pediatrics in Los Angeles, where we met. I have never written about him before.
We all make stupid choices when we are young, dumb and naïve. This guy was so determined and persistent in making me his wife I eventually gave up and gave in. My parents were honestly intimidated because, to them, doctors were somewhat like gods. However, they wanted their only daughter married in their Omaha church. Norm had never been to Nebraska but reluctantly went along with the wedding plans if it was the way to make me his wife. He was not only a snob, but also lacked my family’s sense of humor.
He joined me in Omaha, and the traditional wedding went off as planned — my dad and brothers looking spiffy in rented tuxes. Family friends offered their cabin on the Missouri River for the one-night honeymoon before we flew back to L.A. After the wedding, we returned to my parent’s home to change and head to the cabin. I think my family was as anxious to say goodbye to Norm as he was to them. He was a “big city boy” and not at all happy about going to a cabin in the woods. Norm waited impatiently in the rental car as I gave hurried last hugs and kisses to my loved ones.
We were about two blocks from my childhood home when suddenly a figure rose up from the floor of the back seat. Yep, it was Mom. “Boo!” she said, and I thought Norm was going to slam the car into a tree. Not for a second did he think this was funny, and I knew better than to laugh. He furiously turned the car around and delivered my mother back to the house. This was the first real clue I was doomed to a humorless marriage.
His mood darkened when we had trouble finding the cabin. Once there, I saw it as a beautiful place compared to the very modest cabin my family owned on the Elkhorn River. Norm was far from a “woodsy guy” and clearly uncomfortable in that cabin. He was suspicious of being so isolated from civilization that he blocked the door with a heavy table. I crawled into the bed, bewildered, while he insisted on sitting in a chair on guard — from what, I had no idea.
I finally nodded off, but at 3 a.m. sat bolt upright at the sound of cowbells. My first thought was it was Dad and my brothers pulling off what in some cultures is called a “shivaree” — look it up if you’re really curious. It turned out to be four cows that had wandered away from a farm and were circling the cabin. Norm acted as if he had never seen a cow before and, once again, I had to stifle my laughter. I think that wedding night might qualify as one of the world’s worst. We left at daybreak and sat wordlessly in the airport until time to board.
I’d like to say the marriage, itself, got better, but I would be lying. It took a long time, including therapy, to find the guts to get out. I carried around a lot of guilt until it was pointed out that the marriage gave me my incredibly wonderful daughter, Rocki. She never knew that wedding story about her father, but she will now!
Is it any wonder that years later Burt Lippman had me with the first laugh? Or that my very funny family fell in love with him, too?
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]