They’ll grow up so quickly— and then move to Bophuthatswana and forget about me
AN undisclosed number of years ago (that’s to stump all of you math whizzes), my status on this planet changed from one moment to the next. Up until then I was a daughter, wife, and mother, but suddenly, one Erev Shabbos, I became far more “grand.”
This took some getting used to, because I generally think of myself as around 22 years old and have no idea why sane people trust me with serious responsibilities.
This cataclysmic shift meant I had to endure various indignities, including lots of jokes about Geritol vitamins, knitting needles, and rocking chairs.
In fact, I simply couldn’t picture myself as a Bubby, Babby, Grandma, Nana, Bonmama, or even Savta. Then a friend crowned me “Savti,” and this moniker stuck, even through several tumultuous encounters at the olive wood store in Meah Shearim when the proprietor refused to inscribe an improperly spelled name. Sheesh.
I feel that I have a responsibility to my fellow youthful grandmothers, so I try my best to dress the part and appear energetic and joyful, even as I wonder whether the first dance at weddings has become at least 20 minutes longer than it used to be.
Recently, I saw my (much younger) friend wearing a shade of lipstick that really brightened up her face. I asked her for its name and looked it up online. Turns out that Versailles Pink lipstick is kind of costly, but what price can we put on looking good for our husbands? Two days later, the lipstick arrived and hmmm … I couldn’t decide: Bold and fun (Versailles Pink) or tasteless & tacky (Miami Beach Muumuu)?
I decided to just put it on and see what would happen, and my dear, sweet five-year-old drama queen granddaughter came to the rescue. “Savti,” she asked, “why do you have such pink lips? You look like an old lady!” That’s pretty much verbatim.
I’ve been bemoaning the fact that the grandkids are growing up way too quickly. In a maudlin frame of mind, I whimpered to my husband, “Bella is soon going to be in seminary, and then she’ll get married and move to Bophuthatswana, and her kids won’t even know who I am!”
“Bella is only 13,” my husband calmly reminded me. “And she’s more likely to live in Lakewood or Queens than Bophuthatswana. You’re catastrophizing.” He’s so logical; it’s maddening.
Still, I decided it was time for me to try to connect in a more meaningful way to the grandkids, especially the older ones. So, when I realized that Bella’s (secular) birthday was coming up, I wanted to reach out to wish her a happy birthday.
But she was in camp, and I knew it would be almost impossible to get through to her. My daughter helpfully suggested that I could email a letter to the camp and the office staff would print it out and give it to her. Of course, I discovered this mode of contact quite by accident, right before she was going to be coming home. (Coincidence? I think not…)
I spent a good deal of time trying to strike just the right balance with the letter — cool and with-it, but respectful of the fact that all adult relatives of tweens and teens are basically a huge source of humiliation. Finally, I hit on a draft I thought could work.
Subject: For Bella Davidowitz
[Sing out loud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”]:
Happy goyishe birthday to you! 😊
Happy goyishe birthday to you! 😊
Bella — I don’t know if you picked up on this, but I’m trying to avoid writing anything super embarrassing, because I realize this isn’t private. It’s a real struggle for me.
I can’t believe I just got this email address and now you’re coming home! I hope you’re having an amazing time in camp, and I hope you have the good sense to sleep at least three hours on the last night of camp, so you can avoid coming home an exhausted mess, after weeping copiously all night with camp friends from whom you will be parted... for exactly one hour, because a lot of them probably live within walking distance from your house.
But the main reason I’m writing is to wish you a happy birthday and to tell you how happy Sabba and I are that Hashem decided around this time that the world could no longer continue spinning on its axis without your beauty, charm, talents, and sparkling middos.
I still remember how you came into the world as a scrawny-looking chicken with a pink bow on your head, but we vowed to love you anyway. And look at you now! You’re a gal with a lot of friends and talents, and I’m still trying not to embarrass you so I won’t continue to talk about all of your other ma’alos (many of which you have inherited from your maternal grandmother:).
You’re very precious to Sabba and me, but this isn’t to say that you can extort an expensive piece of jewelry for your birthday from us. There is plenty to be acquired for $20 at Amazing Savings. If you’re going to marry a learning guy and move to Bophuthatswana, you need to get used to histapkus b’mu’at. Of course, I don’t know if that’s what you want, but we can have a long DMC about it when you get home. I’m sure you’re looking forward to that.
Anyway, can’t wait to see you and hear all about camp! (“Yeah. It was fun.”)
Have a great Shabbos!!
Savti Grossman (in case you have another Savti lurking around somewhere)
P.S. Sabba has Covid. (He’ll iy”H be okay but it’s always good to have people davening, especially a heilige tzadeikes like you!)
P.P.S. Can you put in a good word for me, too? I’m looking for a short, flary skirt in just the right shade of ecru and I could use a little siyata d’Shmaya here.
Love you! (Oops, sorry. That was probably embarrassing. Yikes.)
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 806)
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