As the first grandchild on my maternal side, I had the task of inventing a name for my grandmother, who felt she was too young, at 50, for a traditional title (Grandma, Nana, Grammy or Granny). At the time, the all-powerful name Bubbe was spoken for by my great grandmother, who reigned over our New England family with her bobye-mase, blintz and babushkas until my sophomore year at Connecticut College. Even if the old world reference had been available, I know the woman I dubbed Gammi, would never have gone for it.
In this new generation of assimilated Jews with very little tying them to their Eastern European heritage, I’m concerned about what will happen to the Bubbe? Will the Bubbe become extinct?
I’m not talking about preserving the orthopedic shoes or the gray hair that Renee Septimus writes about in Grandma Wears Heels and Doesn’t Bake Cakes. Gray Hair? No way. I don’t expect modern Jewish grandmothers to overfeed their little ones chicken fat and tongue sandwiches. And I understand if they want to plump up their pores with Botox, now and then. I like the idea of a beautiful Bubbe. But the person who carries that title—Bubbe—holds the responsibility of passing on tradition (religious, cultural, and familial) from generation to generation.
So with just 10 months to go until I walk down the aisle and under the chupah to marry my true love—who thankfully still has his wonderful Bubbe—I asked my beautiful blonde mother, what she thought about taking on the title role of Bubbe, one day in the future, when we are ready to start a family. I mean she already makes a killer mandle bread and has a Miriam cup at her Seder—she’s basically bridging the gap. “Bubbe was the head of our family,” my mother said, “She was our strength. I would be honored to follow in her footsteps.”
I know for sure my mother will never wear a schmate on her head or a pastel tracksuit, but that’s not what makes a Bubbe. It’s tradition. So, to future grandmothers out there, I ask you to consider it, bring the name Bubbe back.