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Thanks for the memories — an ode to my bubby, a”h

The memories of my grandmother capture me at unexpected times -- images so tangible I can almost touch them
(Courtesy)

Bubby!

The memories hit at the most unexpected times.

Early morning. While groggily peeling off the foil of a new jar of Taster’s Choice, the aroma of those intoxicating beans strikes me full on. In an instant, I am back in your big old house, gliding down the elegant staircase, my nose leading the way to the kitchen where your Mr. Coffee whistles a morning greeting, and you are already standing over the stove, your crossword puzzle momentarily forgotten, preparing my eggs just the way I like them.

To this day, no one can scramble an egg for me the way you did. Was it the texture, the copious amounts of cheese, the love?

A dam has broken; the memories pour in. It’s as if I’m looking through that iconic, red View-Master toy of my youth. With each “click” comes another image, so tangible I can almost reach in and touch it.

Click.

I sit in your red and pink tiled tub, lathered in the Bubble Bath I now realize you bought especially for me. After my bath, you lovingly wrap me in a towel and carry me to your closet — the size of my current apartment — to get dressed.  I beg for a spritz of perfume from the vintage pump bottle, and you smilingly acquiesce.

Click.

We are shopping till we drop in Boscov’s, your favorite department store. Every time I try on a skirt, you chide, “Are you sure your parents won’t say it’s too short?” It certainly annoyed me then, but now I understand you were just trying to respect your son and daughter-in-law.

Click.

We are in a mint green house, having one of our tea parties with “Bubby Naomi,” your elderly, widowed friend who never had children. Suddenly it dawns on me that it was YOU who bought the ice cream, cookies, and teas, always letting me choose my favorite. We’d spend hours cheering up your lonely friend, you making her feel as if SHE was doing the favor by entertaining you and your granddaughter. You always bragged that I never touched her china tchotchkes, just looked.

Click.

The smell of chlorine permeates the air as you sit patiently on the side, paying for and accompanying me to every single summer swimming lesson at the Y. Now that I’m a mom with a daughter who goes to swimming lessons, I know how utterly boring (not to mention humid!) that must have been for you. But you never complained; beaming with pride at the opportunity to spend more quality time with me.

Click.

We buy farm-fresh tomatoes from the roadside seller, which you gladly wrap in warm tortillas for me, despite it being not the most conventional of food choices. For yourself, you use the tomatoes to make your authentic grilled cheese, pan-fried in butter with a cheese-pull to rival any of today’s Instagrammers.

Click.

Every Shabbos we visit, I run up to the playroom to take down the special Minnie Mouse contact paper-covered box of “Shabbos Toys,” non-battery operated games and books you collected exclusively for us kids so we wouldn’t be bored.

Click.

We are driving in your gold Chrysler with the deep leather seats, you smoking your favorite Misty’s, and listening to Mandy Patinkin’s “Mamaloshen” in the CD player. How you loved Yiddish music and culture, because it reminded you of YOUR Bubby, living upstairs in the Bronx. We’d go home and sit by the stained glass window listening to the “When Zaidy Was Young” tapes you bought, eager to grasp a bygone era.

Click.

Me and my siblings are sneaking down to your musty, Victorian basement, our destination the larger-than-life freezer stocked to the brim with every kind of ice cream imaginable. The best part is, you never say no.

Click.

You save every single one of my school journal entries, and then magazine and newspaper clippings, sharing them with anyone who will listen. Now I realize my love of writing came from you, each birthday acrostic and artfully penned card (with a $20 bill to boot) arriving in the mail like clockwork.

Click.

On Friday night, I watch you stand over your Shabbat candles — one for each of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, praying and blessing us for all of eternity. You weren’t some eccentric pyromaniac, you were a woman who deeply cherished her family.

Click.

In later years, after you move to Israel and your health starts to deteriorate even more, me and my girls eagerly await the Tuesday Night Dinners you institute, a menu hand-chosen by the kids and cooked by you and our dear Aunt Tammy. A night of joyful bonding with you and Zaidy, which always ends in Ben & Jerry’s or your homemade Spumoni. You were always a wannabe Italian.

Click.

You attending my Ahuva’s siddur party, dressed to the nines, yet your body so sick and frail. Beaming the entire time, even though you didn’t understand a word.

Click.

Sundays at the library. Art classes. Throwing pennies in a fountain. Your cackly laugh, twinkly eyes, winking dimple, soft hugs. Me banging away on your Baby Grand, not a word of admonishment from you. Your Paula Young wig collection, your delectable stuffed cabbage. Artfully set tables, color-coordinated to your outfits; always giving and lending a hand for anything and everything. Your perfect teeth, your timeless wisdom. Your genuine, uplifting compliments, your illustrious flower gardens. Your mandelbrot. Your encouragement. Your China Doll collection. Your utter devotion to your husband and family.

Bubby, I miss you. And even though all it takes is opening a jar of coffee to feel you here with me, I wish I never had to say goodbye.

About the Author
Nechama Eisenman is a seven year consecutive winner of the "World's Okayest Mom" title, and never met a carbohydrate she didn't like. She rejoices in finding G-d in the mundane, is madly in love with her husband and 3 little girls, and relies on spurts of infectious baby giggles to get through the day.
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