Family & Education

The birth of a grandchild brings endless possibilities

It's a change of name some women can’t face, but this writer is embracing the new moniker


Most of us put up with the name we were given at birth, whether we like it or not. Which means, in a few years’ time, there will be a glut of Olivers and Olivias in our primary schools, for according to a recent Office for National Statistics report, those two names remain the most popular choices for new parents.

Tough if you are a Nigel there were only 11 boys given that name in 2017 and a mere 70 babies were given my name. I guess there is not much joy in being called Joy any more.

But to one special person I have an entirely different moniker one I chose for myself. I’m “Grandma”. Despite all its connotations of grey hair, knitting and rocking chairs, I picked grandma over a limited number of other options when it came to deciding what my grandson would call me.

I thought long and hard about how I should be addressed. Bubbe (booba? bubba? I couldn’t even spell it, let alone contemplate being called it) sounds horrendously ancient. On my dining room windowsill there is a small photograph of an elderly couple, staring seriously at the camera. From their clothes and demeanour, I suspect it was taken in the early years of the last century. The bearded man with a large black kippah my great-great-grandfather looks about 80; his wife, in a long dark dress and sheitl, does not look much younger. Now that’s a bubbe and zeida.

My own grandmothers were Nana and Oma (the latter was German, so it was entirely appropriate), and I did not feel right using the names I had so lovingly called them. Granny, nanny and nan sounded old and not particularly Jewish. I have known grandparents to adopt the Israeli sabba and safta, but those names didn’t sit comfortably either. I quite fancied the Italian nonna or the Greek yia-yia, but as I do not have a single Italian or Greek bone in my body, it would cause some confusion.

Some women are in complete denial about their age and refuse to be called anything which reminds them that a new generation has been born. They just want to be known by their first names and that is their choice. But I want to celebrate this new stage in my life, so grandma it is. Now please pass my slippers and mug of Horlicks while I suck on my Werther’s Originals.

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