“….and a little child will lead them.” — Isaiah 11:6
This is a test. Not for you, but for the person who is now reading this column to me. You steady readers may recall the long-time tradition of my husband, Burt, reading “Bobbie’s Beat” on our way to the Friday Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He would park the car, and I would lean back and listen to him read. It may seem quirky, but it was a way of knowing I had nailed the story just by listening to him. He never knew the subject ahead of time, but he liked knowing it in case people discussed the column at lunch (which invariably happened).
After Burt’s death, friends continued to come over with a copy of the News-Times so they could carry on the tradition. It was therapeutic for me to keep on writing about grief, and this act of kindness by friends was heart-warming and helpful during that painful time of adjusting to life without my husband.
Now we shift gears to the present. The voice I am listening to this morning is that of my daughter, Rocki, who recently announced she was coming up from Los Angeles for a visit. Her life is so full and busy I would never whine about being neglected. We text frequently, and once a week she puts through a “commuter call” on her way home from work so we can catch up on one another’s lives.
Today, I want to test her memory. She was 9 years old when Burt entered our lives. Before Burt, we lived in a drafty, $200-a-month beach house in Santa Monica. After the divorce from her physician father, the funky beach house was quite a change, but we refer to those years as a happy time. We were able to keep our three dogs and her pet gerbils. She could walk to her familiar school, and I loved my job in Beverly Hills.
Yes, Rocki was a “latchkey kid,” but I like to believe she wasn’t traumatized by all the changes. She called me when she got home from school, then walked across the street to play with a girl her age and be watched over by the girl’s mom until I got home. She saw her dad every other weekend, and life for us was idyllic. I dated sporadically, but extremely cautiously. Once burned is enough.
Rocki and I did many things together — deep sea fishing, dog shows, bicycling and especially the beach. Then one day Burt walked into our lives. I say “our” because when I finally agreed to date him, he included my daughter. He once invited us on a beach picnic. We watched this big guy take an over-sized ice chest out of the trunk of his Cadillac convertible — license plate Burt XL for extra large. My daughter and I looked at one another in amazement as we saw him unpack two roasted chickens with a ton of trimmings (enough for 10 people). Later, when he invited us to see his Hollywood apartment, my curious kid opened the fridge. The freezer was jammed-packed with frozen snacks.
I wonder if she will remember that beach picnic and his bachelor freezer. I wonder if she remembers how Burt reacted to our tears when one of our dogs had to be euthanized. He could not stand our sadness and, being a guy, he needed to “fix it.” He immediately found someone with a litter of kittens and said we had to take two, not just one. One of anything was never enough for this overly generous man — and one of those kittens moved with us years later to South Beach and lived to be 18.
But what I really want to test is Rocki’s memory of a conversation that took place in our tiny Santa Monica kitchen a few months after Burt entered our lives. Picture us doing dishes — me washing, her wiping.
• • •
Rocki, age 9: “Mom, about this Burt Lippman we’re dating.”
Rocki “Yes, I love him, you know. Don’t you?”
Me: “This is not an appropriate subject for someone your age.”
Rocki: “Well, I think he’s the one!”
Me: “Oh Really?”
Rocki: “Yep. And you aren’t getting any younger!”
Rocki: “Well, all I have to say is don’t blow it, Mom!
• • •
Several months later, we were married in a friend’s airplane, with Rocki on my lap, grinning her head off. That story, called “A Marriage Made in Heaven,” sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul and has also appeared in this newspaper. Our reception was held at a local hotel, and I still have the little airplane someone perched on top of the wedding cake.
Rocki and Burt had a special relationship, often discussing their mutual careers in finance. To me, it seemed they were speaking a foreign language.
I’m thrilled she is here. I’ve always wanted to discuss that kitchen conversation with her. She will probably deny being that mouthy little kid who got my attention and changed my life for the next 45 years.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock. She is the author of “Good Grief: A Collection of Stories As One Woman Journeys From Heartbreak To Healing Through Honesty and Humor” (Dancing Moon Press). The book, with all proceeds going to Rotary International, is available at JC Market in Newport and directly from Bobbie, who can be contacted at [email protected]