Go Big or Go Home

Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.
— Auntie Mame

“Should we open another bottle of wine?” I asked.
“Go big or go home,” Michelle said.
Michelle brought Bobbi back to life again.

When I was a kid I always felt lonely, and to combat the voids in my little life I would have full-blown conversations with imaginary people who lived inside my head. I never questioned if it was normal or abnormal, but I now believe it was a coping mechanism for the chaos going on in my family life. The people populating my imagination were always older, wiser, and vastly different than the actual living and breathing people in my life. And I was different, too. Not ten years old, but an older, better version of myself. I remember walking home from elementary school imagining I was headed home to my own apartment from my office job which usually involved typing, filing papers and answering the phone, all work related duties my father’s secretary performed.

Her name was Bobbi and she was the model for all the women in my head. I loved her big personality. She smoked unfiltered cigarettes held between two bright red pointy fingernails. With her cropped hair, pencil skirt, and sweater set she looked like an older version of Shirley McClain in The Apartment. She swore and didn’t have a morsel of affection for her boss’s kids. When my brother and I visited my dad’s office she’d shove some paper and a stapler our way and tell us to be quiet while we occupied ourselves. I thought she was the coolest woman on the planet. When my father died we lost contact with Bobbi. I never knew what happened to her, but I had her voice in my head for years as I navigated the world of loss. She was the big-mouthed friend I needed who would make fun of the mean girls. She was the voice of comfort when I cried myself to sleep. She was the Auntie Mame of free-spirited advice and had a bullshit detector like no other. Why I conjured up Bobbi as the voice of reason I’ll never know. But for a few crucial years she was the sanest friend I had.

Then I grew up and Bobbi’s voice grew weaker until I didn’t hear it any more. My world was full of real human beings. Thanks to a friend, Michelle, I thought of Bobbi for the first time in years this summer as I watched my daughter marry the love of her life. Exuberant Bobbi would have been proud of the big love, big joy, the big celebration of life we shared with friends and family on a beautiful summer day on the lake. I looked around the room and felt all my interior selves were alive and present under the tent where we toasted, ate, drank and danced until we couldn’t dance anymore. Gigantic arms of love surrounded my family. We felt it. It permeated the air. The people who mattered were there. Others stayed home. There was a full moon and under that moon the music pulsed, the people danced, the laughter echoed across the lake.

A therapist once told me, when I was young and married and questioning my mothering skills after losing a baby and ignoring the one I had at home, “If you’re unhappy with the family you came from you have the ability to create the family you’ve always wanted.” It was an epiphany. As Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz that she had the power to go home all along just by clicking her ruby slippers together. I had the power to create the life I envisioned as a lost little girl wanting to be oh so brave, impulsive, free-spirited and flamboyant. I can make my imaginary life real. I can be a part of the family I’ve always dreamed about. And the best part is I got what I wished for. Who knew I had that kind of super power? Bobbi did. So thank God for friends, the ones who dance with you to any crazy song and the imaginary ones that come back and visit now and then.