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Jan 25 2011

Where Did The Bubbe Go?

By at 1:32 pm

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.

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6 Responses to Where Did The Bubbe Go?

  1. Diane says:

    When my grandson was born 9 years ago I decided to become Bubbie. His other grandmother is not Jewish and I wanted to differentiate between us that I am the Jewish one. My mother was horrified! Her Bubbie was mean and dressed in black. Fortunately several women I know have embraced the name and reinvented the uber-cool, super sexy stereotype. I am 58 and I am thrilled that my grandson calls me Bubbie because when he does I am the only one who responds!

  2. Leslie says:

    We have kept the Bubbe in our family-it is me- I am a young 65 with a few Bubbe cousins my age. I love that I took on the name of my great-grandmother, grandmother & mother. It is an honor!

  3. Stephanie says:

    I am and have been Bubbie since my first grandchild was born 8 1/2 years ago. I make killer chicken soup, bake and cook all kinds of yummys from chinese to Polish. I show my grandchildren yiddish sites on the computer so we can learn the words that make us all proud to be what we are.
    I have six wonderful grandchildren now and they all call me BUBBIE

  4. Long live the Bubbe-Soxer!

  5. T. says:

    I’m gonna be a Bubbe! I come from a long line of Bubbies! My mother laughed when I told her I wanted her to be Bubbie Sheila, but she loved when the kids would run to her yelling “BubbieBubbieBubbieBubbie!!!” Now they’re in college and my mother has passed, but I look forward to being a rockin’ Bubbie!

  6. lisa says:

    Love the sentiment…but I just can’t think of your mom as Bubbe!!! It’s hard to dismiss the strong ties between the name, the schmates and the orthopedic shoes. I don’t think Manolo Blahnik makes orthos! But it does raise a good question–what ARE your kids going to call her–yikes!!


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