We’ll go if we’re invited. It’s up to Bubby. She owes us nothing.
I drop my suitcases, and even though I’m an overweight mom of five, I’m running, running, to my Bubby’s house.
I knock on the door, and there she is. We’re hugging each other, then schmoozing and laughing, both our eyes alight with love and enjoyment.
This. This is what I traveled for. This is why I left my kids with my husband for a week. I have a Bubby. I know I’m fortunate (at my age!), and we enjoy each other’s company so much.
But my Inner Child still exists, the child who was rejected and ignored by her.
I still don’t know understand why, but when I was growing up, my Bubby didn’t like me.
Don’t tell me that every grandmother loves her grandchildren. It’s simply not true. As a kid, I knew with every fiber of my being that Bubby didn’t like me or my siblings. She didn’t hide it. Just like she didn’t hide the fact that she loved our cousins.
At family events, our Morris cousins would line up to kiss Bubby, but when it came to us, she’d turn her head and say, “I have a cold, no more kisses.”
We’d sleep at Bubby’s house when the grown-ups were at a wedding. My siblings and I were banished to the guest room, while the Morris cousins were welcomed to the inner sanctuary of Bubby’s bedroom, off-limits to me and my siblings.
Bubby went to the Morrises’ for Shabbos lunch every week, but told us repeatedly she already had plans, even if we invited her weeks in advance.
My parents urged us to always show respect. “You say gut Shabbos, Bubby. You always offer her a kiss. Whether she wants it is up to her.”
Meanwhile, the Morrises never had to try — they had Bubby’s unfailing love and devotion.
Kids often just accept things as they are, even if they’re intrinsically unfair. That’s just how it was.
Time moved on, and we kids grew up. We married and had kids of our own. Some of us even moved away, but we always made sure to keep up the contact….
And then a funny thing happened.
All those years of wishing her good Shabbos, of telephoning in from overseas, paid off.
I noticed it the first time I came back for a visit, my six-month-old baby and husband by my side. Bubby was waiting for us, and at first, I cringed inwardly, bracing myself for the inevitable rejection. But she kissed and hugged me tightly. I tried not to look too taken aback. She cooed over my baby, showering her with kisses, and I felt something shift inside me.
Bubby loved my baby. She accepted my husband. She had tears in her eyes when we left, and I knew beyond a shadow of doubt: She loved me.
Love begets love; acceptance invites acceptance. From then on, every visit, every phone conversation (and of course, I call regularly, as was drilled into me as a child) is enjoyable.
At times my Inner Child licks her wounds, but she also preens. Bubby loves me!
As a kid, I could never have anticipated this relationship.
I suppose each family has their own unusual dynamics, and my husband’s family, I realized early in our marriage, is no different. My mother-in-law adores her only daughter, Penina, who is successful, self-motivated, and was, according to all accounts, a pleasure to raise.
My husband Chaim, my mother-in-law often tells me, struggled academically and socially, lacked motivation, was thrown out of three yeshivos, fell into a bad crowd… the list goes on and on.
Maybe there’s a lingering pain or resentment? Who knows? But the fact is undisputable: My mother-in-law plainly prefers Penina and her family over Chaim’s and mine.
Penina and I were both expecting our first baby at the same time. While my mother-in-law doted on Penina, she only occasionally asked me how I felt. It hurt. I reminded myself things are different for a daughter than a daughter-in-law, that I have a mother even if she doesn’t live nearby. Penina gave birth two days before I did, and my mother-in-law dutifully came to visit, glanced at my new baby disinterestedly, and said, “I’ve been holding Penina’s baby all day. I’m all babied out now, maybe next time…”
I felt like I’d been slapped.
As the years passed, her favoritism remained clear, even to my kids. It’s impossible to miss. Bubby gets together with Penina’s kids every Sunday afternoon; they go on trips together, do arts and crafts together, eat the Shabbos and Yom Tov meals together, go on vacations together.
My kids have often asked me, “Mommy, why does Bubby go to Aunt Penina’s house but not ours?” “Mommy, why did Bubby buy Cousin Shmuli a baseball set but not me?” “Mommy, Bubby’s taking Yechiel and Malki on a trip to Monsey — can we go, too?”
My answers: We’ll go if we’re invited. It’s up to Bubby. She owes us nothing. Whatever she does for us is wonderful. Don’t look at what she does for your cousins, that has nothing to do with us. Just show her respect and appreciation, call to wish her good Shabbos. Expect nothing — and you’ll never be disappointed.
There’s a part of me that hurts deeply, seeing my kids rejected like this, knowing exactly how it feels.
But there’s another part of me that is waiting for time to run its course, because it knows the truth: Relationships don’t stay stagnant forever. People change. You get what you put in.
That same part of me slyly thinks that Penina’s kids vaguely remind me of my Morris cousins, who never had to work for Bubby’s love like I did. The same Morris cousins who Bubby always complains about these days. “They never visit, they never call….”
I watch, and I think about all the dutiful phone calls and unfailing respect to my own grandmother. And I hope that, here too, love and devotion will work their magic, and one day, things will be different.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 663)