My mother was always the most glamorous mother in our neighborhood. She never left the house unless she was in full makeup with her hair "just so." This continued into her later years when it would often take her as long as 4 hours to put on her "face." She was always impeccably dressed. My mother is probably the only person to climb Masada in a white pleated skirt and high heels.
People would often mistake her for Ann Miller, the actress and dancer. When this occurred, she would oblige people with a little tap dance and an autograph. This would make the people very happy until they realized she had written "Barbara Ripstein."
Her marriage to my father was a great love affair that lasted 52 years. They met when my grandfather, her father, developed gallstone pancreatitis and was referred to my father for surgery. My grandfather's room was at the end of the hallway. Legend has it that my father, as chief of surgery, was leading a large group of residents down the hall to my grandfather's room, when my mother stepped into the hall. My father promptly walked the whole entourage into the wall. He proposed on the second date and they married shortly after. She was, at that time, a graduate student in Psychology, and left school as soon as she was married. She was a woman of another era and was content to be a wife and mother.
My mother often downplayed her own intelligence, but she was very smart. She skipped several grades and went to Syracuse University at the age of 16. Many years later, after she made a killing in the stock market, my father put her in charge of family finances. She was an avid crossword puzzle solver and usually finished the NYT puzzle before my father, but never told him. She was obviously the inspiration for my sister, Ellen, who took this to another level and became American Crossword puzzle champion in 2001 and currently works for the NYT puzzle editor.
My mother never missed an event when we were growing up. She was at every concert, every play, any event where we were twirling our batons. Ellen remembers a really insignificant Flag Day celebration, where my mother was the only parent to show up.
Probably her favorite role was grandmother. She went crazy after my sons were born. We had to give her the key to the house. My parents would travel an hour each way, twice a week, to pick up the kids from Beth Am and take them to eat. Later on, the boys and I would go every weekend to take her out to lunch in Aventura Mall. I always felt sorry for whoever sat next to her on the bench at Cheesecake Factory, because they would have to hear all about her fantastic daughters and brilliant grandsons. It really didn't matter who sat there. I saw her talk to an old Cuban lady who spoke no English, a biker with tattoos, and a teenager with multiple piercings. They all got the story.
She was very funny and wasn't afraid to act silly. Even after her massive stroke, she maintained her sense of humor. When she was in the hospital, the EKG tech came in and said, "Hi Barbara. I'm going to take a picture of your heart." She replied, "Okay. I'll try to smile."
In summary, my mother had a good life. She loved and was loved in return, and this was what mattered to her.