As soon as my daughter-in-law told me she was pregnant I got on the phone to my best friend in Texas. “I’m going to be a Grandma!” I told her, barely believing it myself. When you reach a certain age – or more importantly, when your only child does – thoughts turn to the next logical phase in your life: Being a grandparent. This thought had been churning around in my middle-aged brain for about a year when the blessed event finally happened. “Oh my God!” my best friend said.
An excited exchange of the usual then ensued: “When is she due? How is she feeling? What’s your grandma name going to be?”
“Your grandma name. You know, what he or she is going to call you. Like, are you going to be Grandma or Nana or what?”
In the next few days I got asked that question. A LOT. Seems that everyone has a pretty good idea what they want to be called. I actually already knew what I didn’t want to be called because that’s just something you know. Like knowing you don’t want your kid to be named Horace or Grizelda. Certain names just don’t ring the friendly bell. For instance, I know I didn’t want to be called MeMaw, which brings to mind the image of a really OLD grandma with a cane and a Dowager’s hump and a bowl of ribbon candy on the sideboard that’s been there so long it’s formed some kind of ribbon candy blob in the bowl, making it impossible to separate out one piece – if ribbon candy’s something you actually like to eat. Which most people don’t. I also didn’t want some kind of new trendy name like G-mom which sounds more like a suburban female superhero’s name. I am definitely NOT a superhero and besides, spandex tends to accentuate my hips. Nobody wants to see that. .
So I did what any post-modern person would do; I Googled the words “grandma name”. Point 23 seconds gave me 66 million results. REALLY? Seems that everyone in the known universe is now choosing their own special grandparent name, and really when you think about it, this is the only time in your life when you get to choose a name. And foisting it off on an unsuspecting grandchild is really the key to making that name stick.
At least that was my plan.
Earlier, I mentioned my best friend in Texas. Her mom’s grandma name, which was just a continuation of her adult nickname, was Chief and Jean was the personification of the word. When I was 19 years old, she the first real professional woman I’d ever met. Smart, single and successful, she was my role model. All of her children called her Chief because she was the one who could fix anything or solve any problem. I thought about that name for myself, but decided it would be inappropriate. Her nickname died with her and besides, I wanted something to fit my smarmy personality. For awhile, I told people I wanted to be called “The Situation” – after that guy in Jersey Shore who actually named his abdominal area. Or “Winning”, because that was around the time Charlie Sheen was going through his spectacular and very public rant-fest. This was good for a few laughs but of course I wasn’t really seriously considering those names. Well, maybe a little bit. I mean, The Situation has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? But then I imagined all the ways a toddler could slaughter a name like that and really, I’d want the kid to say it properly -not all diced up into unintelligible syllables, one of which sounds like a curse word that just doesn’t belong coming out of an 18-month old’s mouth.
When my brother was young he had a terrible stammer. I mean it was BAD – like speech therapy kind of bad. Poor kid wanted to talk, but the words just didn’t come out like everyone else’s. Saying Grandma or Grandpa…well, that was just a set-up for verbal disaster for him. “G-g-g-aaaaar” he’d say. Whether it was our grandfather or grandmother he was trying to address, it came out “Ggggaaaaar” every time. My brother called all four of our grandparents “Gar” until the speech therapy kicked in.
God, I hoped I wouldn’t end up with a name like Gar for my grandma name.
The Royal Wedding took place in April and as I was scarfing down a Hot Pocket at my desk, I watched the online feed. While wiping a piece of super-heated cheese off my face (they don’t call ’em Hot Pockets for nothing), I stared, transfixed, at the image of Pippa Middleton’s backside in the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen. Being a short, stocky woman myself, Pippa had the kind of figure I spend nights praying to come back in another life with: Tall, long slender legs, fabulous hair. Yup, that Pippa had it goin’ on, alright. And if I couldn’t pull off that look without leg-lengthening surgery and full-body lipo, I realized that she had something I could have – the name. My Grandma name, I decided, was going to be Pippa.
I gave it my best shot. Made a formal declaration and everything. “My Grandma name will be Pippa” I told everyone. My best friend, being the true-blue-twin-sister-of-another-mother kind of best friend, actually called me that. “How’s Pippa?” she’d ask when I would call during that last, long gestational month of my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy. “No baby for Pippa yet” I’d answer, my feet cooling in 2 inches of tepid water in what became known this summer as The Sled Pool. It was July, it was scorching hot and I liked to talk on the phone outside. Not having a real pool, I drug my son’s old plastic sled out of the shed and filled it up with water. The dog and I would fight for possession of the Sled Pool and he would usually win – stretching out his full length to take advantage of every available square inch of water-filled space. When he was sufficiently cooled to his satisfaction (or a clueless squirrel breached the backyard border which the dog monitored with the diligence of a newly minted Al-Qaeda recruit), he’d scamper off, leaving me with a tepid, somewhat muddy soup mixture. Waiting for a baby to come in the summertime is hot, tedious business and Pippa was READY to hold that baby.
And so it goes. My grandson was born and like every grandparent, I pronounced him the most beautiful baby ever born. And suddenly, just like that, the importance of my grandma name vanished. Poof. People asked me “how’s grandma?” not “how’s Pippa?” I thought that saying the name would make it so. I said I was going to be Pippa and assumed everyone would just call me that because I SAID SO. It was a good way to pass the time this summer, though. I got some laughs and discovered a whole grandparent name subculture.
So I’m Grandma. For now. And that’s OK with me. My grandson hasn’t started talking yet, so maybe there’s still a chance for “Pippa” to rise from the ashes; only time will tell – but no matter what he calls me, even if it’s Ggggaaaar, or even if it’s (do I dare say it?) MeMaw, it will sound like music to my ears.