By Laura Weisskopf Bleill
Today, my daughter told me that she only has one grandmother. One is alive, she said, and one is dead. Not so, I say. You have two grandmothers, Grandma (referring to my husband’s mother) and Savta (what the grandkids call my mother, the Hebrew word for grandmother).
Savta isn’t my grandma! she shouts, adamantly.
I don’t blame her for being confused. She seems to get that my Nana, who passed away in April, was my grandmother. Her death initiated discussion about other relatives who are no longer with us, including her paternal grandfather.
But this business about Savta not being her grandmother? I don’t quite get that. So I try to explain to her what a grandmother is.
My mommy and your daddy’s mommy are your grandmothers, I tell her. She tells me, in her typical 4-year-old fashion, that I’m arguing with her.
Obviously, she’s getting tripped up in the semantics. To her, a Savta is not a Grandma, just like Grandma is not a Savta.
Maybe she’s picking up on the fact that most other kids “don’t” have a Savta. Of course, Savta in Israel is as common as Grandma is here. But in the American Jewish community, Savta is not a typical name for a grandmother; that would be Nana, or Bubbe (the Yiddish word) or just plain old Grandma — or some cute made-up name.
So I went down the path of explaining to my obstinate, know-it-all 4-year-old that some kids have grandmas who go by different names. Her cousins’ other grandma is known as Abuelita, which is grandmother in Spanish. And my younger daughter’s caregiver is called Oma, the German (and other languages) version.
It still didn’t register.
The way that my mom chose her “grandma name” was quite funny. She originally wanted to be bubbe — until my dad said that he wouldn’t sleep with a bubbe. Funny enough, my dad doesn’t have a unique name, although at one time he wanted to be called “grandfather.” Um, let me get my time machine so we can go back to 1903. At one point, the kids called him G-pa, but that seemed to be a fad.
So tomorrow, at breakfast, I’ll try to resist the urge to bring up this topic again. Of course I wonder if this is the start of her feeling different from other kids, or if I’m blowing this out of proportion.
She may be confused about the various different monikers, but in the end, I’m not concerned at all.
Whatever the name, she knows that it means unconditional love.
What do your kids call their grandmothers? How did they get their names?
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, is ready to offer up said 4-year-old to the highest bidder. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at email@example.com.