Column: Slices of Life: By Jill Pertler
It’s one of the first things new parents do after counting to make sure there are 10 fingers and 10 toes. They name the baby. Names are chosen carefully and with great attention to detail. What sort of mean nicknames could kids in the schoolyard find to taunt little Dicky with? Will a weird spelling haunt a kid for life? Does the name of choice rhyme with any swear words? Do initials spell out anything with negative connotations? Will the name make a smooth transition from childhood to adult life?
So much to contemplate.
I’ve been doing all of the above – not for a baby, per se, but for myself. I’m on the cusp of acquiring an additional name – one I’ve spent a lifetime preparing for. And by golly, I’ve earned it. It’s the one the new baby in my life will call me and it calls for considerable consideration.
Grandma is the obvious choice, but according to Google research, “Grandma” is just one of many grand choices. Not every grandma has to answer to Grandma. And many modern grannies are utilizing creativity and uniqueness to bump their monikers up a notch.
None of this is new. Grandmas have been anything but Grandma since the invention of the species. I had a neighbor once who insisted her grandkids call her Sylvia. That would be really unique and funny if her name were Mary, but it was Sylvia, so it wasn’t overly remarkable.
Point is, she didn’t want others seeing her as a grandma. Maybe she felt she was too young for that, or maybe she didn’t want anyone to know she was old enough to have a grandchild. It matters not. She was Sylvia to them.
My own mom wasn’t Grandma, but not by choice. She would have been perfectly happy being Grandma, but on the day I was bringing my first baby home from the hospital, my mom fell and broke her hip. Her recovery was gradual and for years she had trouble walking. We explained to our toddler daughter that Grandma had an “owie on her hip” – and from then on she was no longer Grandma, but “Owie on the Hip.” The name was adopted by each of our subsequent kids and for the rest of her days my mom gladly answered to the name “Owie on the Hip” or sometimes just “Owie.”
Grandmas are called different names in different countries. A babushka in Russia is akin to a mormor in the Scandinavian countries. In Spain and Mexico she goes by abuela; in Japan, o baachan; in France grand-mere; in Germany, oma. All are good, but I’ve no need to be bilingual in my grandmotherly status.
Here in the U.S. a few different ones are common. In addition to Grandma, you’ve got Granny, Gran and Nana. If you wanted to go the formal route you could opt for Grandmother. One I found clever and sweet was a woman whose husband, as grandpa, was called simply “Pop.” She asked to be called “Lolly” and together they made a Lolly-Pop. If that doesn’t make you go “awww” I’m not sure what will.
As for me, I’ll come when called, no matter what she calls me. But, I have decided on a preference – if it works out. I sort of like Grammy, for a silly and simple reason: It sounds like an award and I’ve always wanted to win an award.
And my new little granddaughter is the best award this Grammy could ever get.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.