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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 →

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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