Grandparents

What to Call Grandma When “Grandma” Just Won’t Do

When my husband and I became parents, he became Abba and I became Mommy. This was true for all our friends except for the two couples who planned on moving to Israel and chose “Ima.” The rest of us agreed that “Ima” sounded like a screechy shriek.

Oh well. “Mommy” can too.

When my friends and I became grandparents, there were many more names from which to choose. “Bubbie,” “Bobba” and “Bobbie” were early favorites- mostly chosen by those who had (already dead) European grandmothers whom they had called by those names. Grandma sounded like an old lady but if you had had a beloved Grandma, (by then probably also dead), it had a good association.

My Grandma was still alive when I became a grandmother. So that name was hers. My Nana died when she was only a little older than I was at the time I achieved “grandmotherhood” so, although I loved her dearly, I had unhappy baggage with that name.

My own mother was Mama and although I really liked that, I thought she should just keep it. I was in no way a “Bubbie” or any derivative thereof. I didn’t knit, wear orthopedic shoes, have gray hair in a bun, bake or talk with an accent other than that of a native Noo Yawka.

My grandfather’s second wife who we all disliked wanted to be called Granny. She looked like the evil stepmother in Disney’s Cinderella.

“Grammy” had a nice Wasp-y ring to it but the movie “Annie Hall” kind of put a damper on that appellation for nice Jewish grandmothers.

What to do? What to be called? As I rocked my twin grandsons, the first grandchildren, I knew this was a momentous decision. My husband, who did not know his grandfathers, decided immediately on Zaidie. Zaidies usually go with Bubbies. Not us.

“Savta” has a nice soft sound. There are lots of young Savtas. The word had no connotations or baggage for me. I tried it. I’d say to the babies, Savta’s here, Savta loves you, Savta thinks you’re terrific! They said Savta by the age of 14 months. By then, I felt like a Savta.

Last week, the twins, now almost 7 were talking about our “savta sandwich.” Jack said that they are the bread and I am the deli! They were teasing me that Savta sounds like “soft-ta.” They laughed and said they liked that. When we cuddle, even though I’m actually a little bony, they like snuggling up to their “Soft-ta.”

I like it too. I’m sure I’m smiling as, cuddled together, we all drift off to sleep.

Renee SeptimusRenée Septimus is a social worker and Jewish educator. She lives with her husband Joe on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and is the very proud mom of four married children and a savta (that's Hebrew for grandmother) to a (growing) bunch of absolutely perfect grandchildren!

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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