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Dec 10 2014

I’m a Grandmother, Not a Babysitter

By at 11:13 am

i'm a grandmother not a babysitter

I’m not a gooey, super-affectionate type. I’m into competence and capability and problem solving. I have had to teach myself to be less Dr. Spock (as my children used to refer to me) and more Mr. Rogers, so to speak. I have a profession, and while I’ve practiced less than full-time since becoming a mother–it still keeps me pretty busy.

So when my kids started having their own kids and the demands on grandma started coming in, it wasn’t easy. Can I pick up from school? Something’s come up. Can I come to the house? The babysitter has to leave, mum is held up. Can I do this? Can I go there? I’m the Go-To Granny.

What to do? I do not want to be the grandma who is limping around with a toddler in tow, picking kids up from school and bringing them home, giving them dinner and bathing them so that they’re in their jim-jams all nice and clean for Mummy to come and pick up. Every day. No thank you. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2014

I Never Got My Baby #5, But I Did Get This

By at 1:56 pm

Remembering My Lost Twins, Even After the New Ones Are Born

I miscarried my first pregnancy.

In those days, the 1970s, nobody talked about miscarriage, so I grieved in silence. Only my husband and my mother knew.

In those days, doctors told you to wait a few months after a miscarriage before trying to get pregnant again. During those months, I found a lump in my breast.

In those days, the doctors recommended waiting a few months to see if the lump would go away by itself–maybe it was an enlarged milk duct from the pregnancy, they suggested.

It wasn’t. It was a tumor. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 31 2012

One Day, You’ll Want to Remember

By at 11:48 am

black and white eyes closed womanClose your eyes. Relax. Focus on your breath. Be present. Be in the moment.

Those directions for meditation could well apply to parenthood.

It goes fast. It really, really goes fast.

Be present so that one day you’ll remember, and be glad.

I knew, even at the time, that the wonderful time I had raising small children was fleeting. Even during the very hard times, I somehow realized that this was the most important, joyful time of my life and I should treasure it. I tried very hard to be in the moment. To be conscious of the wonder.

I somehow knew that even though some days crawled by, the time would fly. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 9 2012

Am I the Boring Grandmother?

By at 4:18 pm
moma museum of modern art new york

I'd take museum over roller coaster any day.

So I’m hoping I’m not the “boring grandmother.”

My machatenista (Yiddish, your child’s mother-in-law) has three boys and, reliving a happy part of their youth, and hers, loudly cheers on our grandsons at their Little League games.

I couldn’t stand going to those games even when my sons played. It was hot, buggy, the kids looked miserable, and there was always at least one idiot father who acted like a 3-year-old, having a tantrum if the kids failed to live up to his expectations or the ref made a call he didn’t like. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2011

Yiddish, the Language of “Bubbe Love”

By at 4:08 pm

i heart yiddish t-shirtI loved Cara’s description of her relationship with her own grandmother and of her pleasure in seeing her child relate to his grandparents. Believe me, Cara, your parents and in-laws are also kvelling as they watch you parent and grow into your new role of “mother.” It’s a bonus of grandparenting.

I also noticed, with a smile, the Yiddish words used in the piece.

Both sets of my grandparents lived around the block from me when I was growing up so I saw them a lot and have many, many wonderful memories. I lost one grandmother, my Nana, when I was only 9 years old. It was a devastating loss which I only fully realized, mourned, and came to terms with as an adult. My Grandma, on the other hand, died six years ago, at almost 100 years old, and lived to see my first grandchildren.

Each time I walked through her door with the twins, she first looked at me and happily called, “Hello, Savta!” Then she would beam at the twin bundles I brought to visit her every week. Her joy at seeing them was only exceeded by her joy seeing me as a grandmother. She was so happy for me. “I loved being a grandmother,” she would tell me, sure that I would find the same joy and sense of purpose.

Both my grandmothers spoke fluent Yiddish. I didn’t understand the words sometimes but the tone and the inflection with which the Yiddish words were spoken came straight from their heart and into mine. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2011

Strong Women, Late Babies

By at 11:43 am

I come from a family of strong women, and my mother is the strongest woman I know. Holder of a PhD in Jewish education, she has created an utterly loving and functional family of uber-educated, smart, fun and happy Jews. Her students in every context, whether familial or professional, regard her with a combination of awe and fear.

When I was in high school, my mother was principal of a synagogue Hebrew school, and she asked me to fill in at the last minute for a teacher who would be absent. I realized seconds into the class that obviously, the regular teacher had had a nervous breakdown. The class was full of little third grade assholes who cared much more about being smart asses than being smart. I tried teaching them Jewish history, but to no avail. It was like something out of Dangerous Minds, but with braces and Benetton as opposed to gang signs and guns.

At one point, though, my mother walked in to give me a message. The second she appeared at the door, the little jerks ran back to their seats and sat ramrod straight in silence. My mother silently appraised the class and then left.

One jerk raised his hand. “She’s SCARY. Do you know what we call her, Jordana?”

Sitting on the front desk in that affected teacher-but-I’m-still-cool position, I raised my eyebrows. “What?”

He smiled. “The Terminator.” Everyone laughed.

“Do you know what *I* call her?” I said, leaning forward as though to divulge a confidence.

“No! What?” the class responded as one, eager for new dirt.

Taking a breath for dramatic effect, I said, “Mom.” Read the rest of this entry →

May 31 2011

Two Grandmothers, Two Worlds

By at 12:30 pm

Is it strange that I associate my grandmothers with kitchen appliances?

My grandma, Gramma Anna as we called her, was born in Dairyland a child of the Depression, and raised her family on the corner of Main St. in Middletown, NY. My Bubbe, Sala, was born in Lodz, Poland, spent most of her childhood in Nazi death camps, and moved her family from Germany to upstate New York when she was 21 years old.  Both women knew how to make kasha varnishkes and other Jewish staples, both could knit and sew, and both made sure we, their grandchildren, knew how much we were loved.

But these women couldn’t have been more different.

Gramma signed our birthday cards in perfect cursive, “with love,” and Bubbe drew zany pictures of flowers and x’s (kisses) and sunshine all around the words “kisses kisses kisses” and “love you mamale,” words she’d spelled phonetically. Gramma was quiet and contented herself during visits to our house by reading magazines and watching my brother and I play. Bubbe, who lived less than three miles from our house, spent most of her afternoons making stockpiles of cookies and chicken soup for us, helping my mother with the laundry and ironing, and squaking in Yiddish, over the phone, about who amongst the greenes (immigrants) was shtuping with whom.

Gramma taught me how to say “oopsy daisy” when I spilled something. She was dainty. Bubbe cooked in a slip and a sheen of sweat from her forehead to her bosom.

Gramma had great power in her wagging finger. That’s not ladylike was enough to keep me honest in her care. Bubbe reminded me, often, to be a balabusta!– the traditional connotation of this word translates to good homemaker, but she meant it in the sense of being a bring-home-the-kischke kind of woman despite all odds, like starting over in a new country, in a new language, working the night shift at a factory with no air conditioning, and navigating through life without a driver’s license. When she said the word, balabusta!, she said it with her fists clenched, marching in place. Read the rest of this entry →


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