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Making a Good Impression

Freda Isaksen

I was coming home! I had left my home in a provincial northern city in Norway because my country had been invaded by the Germans. When I escaped I believed that it was a temporary departure but destiny decided otherwise and now I was returning home to visit as an American citizen after twenty eight years of absence. I had originally come to that small city as a newly wedded bride from the big city of London. At that time before World War II travel was not prevalent, so as an English girl from an important city marrying into a well known and respected family I attracted curiosity from the close knit community, I was different and people wanted to meet the newcomer who had married the most eligible bachelor in town.

Now that I was returning after long years of absence I was aware that circumstances would be different. The people would be more sophisticated because of familiarity with other countries, my previous friends and many of the family would be gone, either deceased or moved away and I would be an unknown foreigner to another generation. But I had announced my visit and I was sure I would be welcomed, and I was! I was greeted profusely by friends who remembered and by the present family. There were parties to greet me and I loved being the center of attention after being a penniless immigrant in America and being alone after belonging to two large families in Europe.

I was glad to be admired for daring to escape from the persecution of an invading regime and then emigrate to a new and unfamiliar country, because in fact very few Norwegian Jews did take the opportunity to save their lives. I took advantage of the attention I received on my visit because I knew it would come to an end when I departed to return to my present home.

I gladly accepted all the hospitality and always made an effort to look my best by wearing the latest fashions that I had brought along in anticipation and tried to look very American.

Towards the end of my visit a few friends invited me to an evening of dinner and entertainment at the city’s finest restaurant. I wore an outfit that I had put aside for just such an occasion. It was a bright kelly green silk two piece suit which I had purchased for my son’s wedding in Los Angeles. It had a matching pill box style hat and high heeled satin shoes dyed to match in that particular shade of green with complimentary matching color gloves and handbag. It was a good looking outfit and I knew it would be considered high fashion in that relatively small city where the latest fashions were late in arriving.

When my friends came to escort me they did indeed admire my appearance, and I was delighted because I knew that the next day the telephones lines would be busy with gossip. In fact the grapevine would extend to the nearby Scandinavian communities as was and still is the custom in those neighboring countries.

I felt good, I craved this attention after all the years of being a nonentity in America. My head was held high as I entered the restaurant with my friends. I wanted to attract attention and I did. I saw that people were staring at me and at first I imagined myself back about thirty years when I was that English girl who had come from the big city to live in Trondheim with her handsome husband. Then I began to feel embarrassed as I saw strangers looking at me from head to toe. “Why are people staring at me so much?” I asked my escort. The answer was “Well, nobody has ever before seen anyone wearing one green shoe and one white shoe. That American fashion has not come to this country yet.”

So I really did become the talk of the town!


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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