January 18th…“TELL US ABOUT A FAVORITE AUNT.”
Her Highness made an elegant entrance into the room where I stood. The Princess had just arrived from the faraway castle called “New York, New York”. Spellbound by her beauty, I had to pinch myself to the realization that this great lady of loveliness was my very own Aunt Lillian Noorlun Greenspun. She was the youngest of my farmer father’s sisters and it was an utter delight to have her and her handsome husband, Gene, visiting us on our farm.
Due to the 1,200 miles between our farm and “The Big Apple”, we seldom had the pleasure of visits from Auntie Lillian and Uncle Gene. When those few times of vacations to our farm did occur, it was like having royalty among us.
I, for one little boy, was completely smitten by this tall, blonde gorgeous woman with blue eyes that could cool you in Summer and warm you in the Winter. I would offer to speculate, over her years, that she coyly employed those blue, sparkling orbs to warm up many a young man’s aspirations in the romance department. I recall family sharing that, with her curvaceous charms and sharp street savvy, she quickly made a name for herself in the modeling world there in the canyoned capitol of modeling agencies there on the East Coast.
Lillian and her handsome husband, Gene Greenspun, made for a striking couple. Uncle Gene was a designer and manufacturer for the “Knickerbocker Toy Company” there in New York. Together, these two dear hearts embarked on many an adventure within the sky-high steel stalagmites of dizzying office buildings there in the city. A profitable adventure of theirs took place one night at a card game with some friends. Gene had an idea for a new “toy”, so to speak. The idea was to create bedroom slippers that would resemble a human foot. Lillian was barefoot while playing cards that evening and Gene told her to keep playing while he crawled under the table with some modeling clay. He began to carve an animated likeness of his wife’s feet into the clay. Gene over-exaggerated the clay foot model to look cuter and then put it into production for marketing. They labeled their new creation, “Crazy Feet” and the slippers came out in multi-colored pliable plastic with a soft, fuzzy lining for foot comfort.
To promote their new fun product, Lillian modeled their “Crazy Feet” slippers for a professional photographer, who then spread the word to the industry and advertisers that these fun slippers were now on the market for sale. On one of their special visits to our farm, Gene and Lillian brought “Crazy Feet” for us kids to enjoy for our very own. My sister, Candice, STILL has her pair tucked gently away as a token of our auntie’s kindness to us.
Our stunning Aunt Lillian was a master logophile. In other words, she LOVED words :o) A hobby of hers was to actually read dictionaries like some folks read a novel. Matter of fact, while she and Gene would ply through the steel jungle streets on his motorcycle, she could be found on the back of that cycle, making use of the time by reading a dictionary resting on Gene’s back. Lillian became so adept at the use of our English language, that she’d “play dumb” to Gene’s business friends and entice them to play the word game, “Scrabble” for money instead of points. Whether it was a dollar a point or whatever amount, these business associates were gullible enough to bet their bucks as they gambled against her. Auntie would “lead on” those poor suckers and “take them to the cleaners” by her wily and witty ways. When one is fluent in every word imaginable that begins with Q, X and Z, ………well, she’d smile all the way to the bank.
Alas, Aunt Lillian, our voluptuous vision of loveliness succumbed to stomach cancer at the tender age of 43. Her story of life’s last chapter is one of many fellow cancer patients chronicled in books written by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I recall seeing a photo of Lillian, towards the end of her life, in that book that shows her sitting in the back seat of a car; gaunt and thin with a large distended tummy from the massive cancer that was consuming her. In the book(s), she’s referred to as “Beth”, because in later life, I found out she really didn’t like her birth name of Lillian. Either way, I was touched by my auntie “princess” and she made an indelible impression on the life of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.