Since Aiven was born last year my husband and I have had the tremendous honor of watching our parents become his bubbes and zaides. I know how special a grandparent-grandchild bond can be since my bubbe was the earth, sun, and moon for me.
I can still feel the self-generated wind blowing through my hair as I ran from the elevator doors into my bubbe’s waiting arms. She always had my favorite treats waiting for me: chopped egg with onion, red Jell-O, iceberg lettuce with thousand island dressing, and green olives. (So my palate wasn’t too sophisticated back then, give me a break!) She would also put on Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” and we’d have a dance party around her apartment. Oftentimes when my parents were around I would crawl into bubbe’s bed and pretend to sleep. I could hear her say, “Don’t disturb her. You can pick her up tomorrow.” As soon as the door closed, she would come into the bedroom and let me know the coast was clear. We stayed up until the wee hours eating junk food, playing with her make-up, and trying on her shoes (clearly my shoe obsession predated Carrie Bradshaw!).
My bubbe passed away four years ago this month but I feel her near me every day. I can see her smile whenever I kiss my son’s chubby cheeks, and I imagined her laughing when I gave him some herring to try and he wouldn’t even go near it. As much as I miss her, her passing cleared the way for my mother to step out of her shadow and become a bubbe herself.
For years, my mother watched her friend’s children get married and have kids, bought endless gifts for their simchas (celebrations), and spent hours hosting bridal and baby showers. With each passing year her standards for me dropped: “Cara, who cares if he’s not a looker?”; “Cara-leh, it doesn’t matter if he’s Jewish”; “Care, so he drinks a little — at least he’s a happy drunk”; “Cares, I’m sure that he was wrongfully accused”. But just when she had lost all hope, her lifelong dream was fulfilled when I got hitched to a Jew and gave her a grandson. Finally, it was her turn to be a proud grandmother!
The pictures of her friend’s grandchildren came down from the refrigerator, and up went a veritable gallery dedicated to Aiven. As computer illiterate as she claims to be, Skype has become her best friend! Aiven sees his bubbe in Vancouver a few times per week by Skype. When he hears the computer making that familiar dial tone, his face lights up and he runs to the screen. She plays instruments, makes funny noises, tries to sing, and generally jumps up and down at the sheer excitement of seeing his shana punim (pretty face). And in return, she has been rewarded with smiles, waves, dances, and even some firsts, such as when she got him to clap his hands for the very first time.
Did I mention we get a package in the mail almost weekly for Aiven with a little something from his bubbe? Those special deliveries from Canada are totally excessive but so very thoughtful and sweet. As we prepared to visit her a few weeks ago she could barely contain her excitement. Actually, she didn’t contain it all. I can honestly say that I have never ever seen my mother this happy. While we were in Vancouver, all she wanted to do was squeeze him, bite his pulkes, feed him, and do anything and everything to keep a bright smile on his face. I may not have a perfect relationship with my mother, but it touched me deeply to see her so happy.
I have seen Aiven’s other grandparents transformed as well. My father, who is the “quiet, strong” type, has the silliest grin on his face whenever he gets on Skype with Aiven. He simply cannot conceal how madly in love he is. Alex’s step-mother didn’t have kids of her own and says that Aiven is like the baby she never had, while Alex’s step-father, who is normally glued to his work, will drop everything and lose track of time when Aiven tugs on his pants, begging to play or read.
I am overjoyed to see Aiven developing a special bond with his grandparents. They each have something unique to contribute to his life. While my parents can snuggle and cook for Aiven in a most yiddishkeit (Jewishness) and hamish (homey) way, Alex’s parents can take Aiven hiking, ziplining, and horseback riding. Yet both offer the same unconditional love. Watching these new identities emerge and flourish in our parents is a lot like watching Aiven grow up — it feeds our souls. We were blessed to have had such wonderful bubbes, and we feel doubly blessed that the tradition is continuing with our son.