Thursday, April 19, 2007
Whaddya Wanna Be Called?
Seth, Joyce and Zachary
What do you want your grandkids to call you? It’s not a question that you answer easily or even consider until the reality of being a grandparent hits you. And yesterday we met Zachary Alexander Jacobson, our new grandchild—who is absolutely divine, and smart, and beautiful, and fabulous. (My grandmother would say not to give him a ‘Kunahara’ (jinx) and say poo poo) But forgetting superstition, you all knew he would be. Anyway, over the past few months we have had a little time to think about this and we have, like when you name your own children, considered many options. At first we thought to go the traditional route, like grandma and grandpa. We tried it out for about 30 seconds but it didn’t fit. So we turned to friends for advice.
My friend Barbara wanted to be called Bubbie. It was a little bit of a surprise because in my mind I see my Bubbie, who always seemed old. Our relationship with her was wonderful but we did not see her everyday nor did we spend hours chatting about our lives. In fact, the most conversation I had with her was when she told me the challah I made needed more salt. According to all my Aunts everything needed more salt, but I could see how pleased she was that I was even making bread. I loved her but my expectations were not that we would be pals. In fact, when my parents went on vacation and my Aunts couldn’t take care of us we, we were left with Sadie, my fathers mother who I called Grandma.
She was a fabulous fun entertaining person who, instead of telling us stories (which she did with all the adults) and sing us songs (which she often did on any stage that happened to be in a place where she happened to be), always thought she had to discipline rather than play with us. Such a loss for us. Back to Barbara. She is youthful, energetic, and beautiful. Not my picture of a Bubbie, but for what must be good and probably memorable reasons, it’s what she wanted to be called.
Tina’s grandkids call her Ganya. Her granddaughter couldn’t say grandma and it came out Ganya. It sounds intentional and Eastern European. When I hear it I do think of a peasant with a shmata (rag) on her head—and that’s not Tina. But I like it. And I considered it. Then I thought, ‘If you have to teach a kid to say Ganya, it probably doesn’t work as well.’ And what would David be called Panya?
Marthena’s kids call her Donnie. When I asked her why, she explained that her grandmother was Donnie, for absolutely no good reason, but her kids called their grandmother Donnie, so it seemed natural for her grandchildren to do the same. I tried to have Edwige’s (my French daughter by choice) daughter call me Donnie, but it didn’t feel comfortable.
Was it much simpler in the past? And if it was, why was it? Maybe it’s because now there are often step grandparents involved and we think we need to distinguish between grandparents by giving everyone different names. Maybe because the expectations of grandparents were different and maybe because language was simpler. Who can tell? I think most of us called our grandparents Nana and Poppa or Grandma and Grandpa. My kids call my mom Nana. On David’s side our nieces call their grandmother from Salt Lake, ‘Nana Salt Cake’, and the grandma from Bala Cynwood was Nana Bala.
Kat and Bill are Nana and Boss. David really liked Boss and he might try it. I prefer he be called Poppie, because it sounds so affectionate and Hispanic, but it’s up to him. So what should I be called? I thought something close to an Auntie Mame kind of name. Something easy to say—so a child would say that name before any other—and something lighthearted and with spirit. Then Joyce told me her grandchild is going to call her Mimi. I loved that. It kind of flows and I liked the way it sounded; it seemed to fit. I asked Joyce how she came to that and what guided her decision and she said, “because really, it’s all about me.” As good a reason as any. We’re just sayin...Iris