Betty Barr Boilesen

The "Barr Good-bye"


As retold by Doug Boilesen, son of Betty Ann Barr Boilesen.


For every visit there is a time to go home...but not too soon.

My mother was a woman who loved entertaining, whether it was hosting bridge, or a family birthday, or a visit from relatives. She loved having a visit be a special occasion and she looked for any excuse to organize a gathering. Perhaps that is why it never occurred to me that there was anything odd about my hosting an annual birthday party for the phonograph.

In looking back I know family get-togethers had the most meaning for her, but for any visitor when it was time to go home there was always a potentially long conversation at the doorway, and a long good-bye. Even after coats were on another 10 minutes could pass before everyone had crossed the threshold. It was this protracted exit that became a trademark of our house, and at some point was christened the "Barr Good-bye."

The origin of the "Barr Good-bye" probably has many sources. When my mother was growing up on the family farm in central Nebraska the closest neighbor was one mile away. My Great-Aunt Tay was less than three miles away. My Aunt Fay and Uncle Andus's farm was less than ten miles away but into the hills. I can remember in the 1950's and even into the 1960's several Christmas Day attempts by our family to reach their farm were unsuccessful. The rolling hills and drifts of snow made the unpaved roads impassable. My mom used those occasions to recall how many winters she could remember when friends and relatives were snowed in for days and the telephone was their only link. And when telephone lines went down the isolation was complete. She often mentioned how lonely my aunt must have been during those long winter months.

So where you live and the mode of travel and communication technology available are surely part of the story.

Our definition of hospitality can also determine how often and how long someone comes and stays. My Great-Aunt Tay used to say you're a guest for the first day but after that you're part of the household and share in the chores.

I heard many stories about how much my grandmother loved visitors and how she always had something extra on the stove. If the traveling salesman was to make his monthly trip to their farm it seems he always arrived just in time to be invited to join their noon-time dinner which my grandmother always did.

Most visitors were great fun for my mom and the anticipation was almost as good as the actual visit. But there was one visitor who didn't get the long "Barr" send-off from my mom and that was the veterinarian. Mom knew that no matter why the vet had come that he would be joining them at mealtime, probably seated next to her, and he always smelled of cows and medicine.

These were meals she never enjoyed and his good-bye couldn't come soon enough.

But the vet was the exception and I never heard any other stories about anyone rushed out the door.

When you visited the Barrs you could always look forward to the "Barr Good-bye."