Superbubbe Comes To Town
(With Her Gown)
There’s legal precedent and there’s domestic precedent. Both are powerful forces in our society - and my family. For example, since my wife, who was 45 years old at the time, spent a week assisting my daughter upon the arrival of our first granddaughter - well, the rest of my fertile family decreed it a domestic precedent. So, she had to do the same for the second grandchild. And six more. Plus a great grandchild. After all, a domestic precedent is a domestic precedent.
Now, as June, a month of Spring and rebirth rolls around, here comes our 2nd great grandchild, surfing in on a tide of joy. Well, who’s going to violate a precedent? SuperBubbe, like the U.S. Cavalry, rides to the rescue. Trouble is - now she’s 70 - not 45.
But off she goes like a great gray battleship - with me, a rowboat, in her wake - to the wars of diaper changes, dinners for recuperating mamas, care giving to the newborn’s sibling, and medical attention to the circumcisionee.
I go for the first two days - she stays for the week nursing, cooking, babysitting. It’s a precedent. That’s what she does.
This week of slavery to mother and child has become a family tradition like my bubbe’s stewed chicken, which the bubbe passed on to my mama. (Don’t forget to saute the onions ‘til they’re dark brown!) My mama taught my wife. (Use dry red wine, not chicken stock for the liquid.) And my wife, in a generous mood, revealed the secret to me. (Use a hen, not a fryer that’ll disintegrate into chicken mush.)
Normal families trace their descent with genealogical tables - we use a chicken recipe. While your Great Grandfather was talking Talmud in a Lithuanian Yeshiva - mine was experimenting with a few slivers of ginger mixed in with his sauteed onions.
So, besides being the best chicken cooker in five generations, I forgot to tell you my wife is an RN. So, she’s a certified care giver. She’s also a certified sentimentalist. That’s why every male child is presented to the mohel in the same embroidered dress full of sweet memories that adorned our first child over fifty years ago. (Your Christian friends would call it a christening dress.) It’s a family custom like the stewed chicken. Bubbe shows up with a smile, a burning desire to coddle mother and child, and that dress that she, as a 20 year old mother, lovingly patted into place on her first boy. Like I say, as of today at 11:15 AM, we’re up to nine brises; three sons, four grandsons, and two great grandsons.
My wife reminds me that we paid nine dollars for the gown - so by virtue of amortization the price is down to a dollar per occasion. We laugh at inflation - a couple more brises and we’re down to the price of a poppy seed bagel.
So here we are again in Far Rockaway, New York - Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv - two years after our first great grandchild’s bris. Same dress. Same family, except for the newcomer, who at eight days old is not world-wise enough to figure out that although everybody is grinning and mazel toving, this is not a bar mitzvah. There’ll be no presents for him. There will be probably a night of discomfort. But that’s why bubbe is here with that dress full of memories.
Now, in a small room down the hall from the davening men the mother ceremonially hands my cooly-dressed great grandson to the grandmother who passes it like the crown jewels of England to the Superbubbe - the great grandmother. Another family tradition: and even more significant than stewed chicken with onions. A married relative, as yet childless brings the unwary guest of honor to me. My fifteen minutes of fame lasts barely ten seconds as I gaze at the baby face so unsuspecting of the pain and joy of his new world. I pass the Crown Jewels to the Mohel.
As per tradition the tri-generational girls remain far down the hall. They can barely hear the murmuring of the prayers but the shouts of mazel tov ring through the corridor like Joshua's trumpet at Jericho, as the deed is done.
Same dress, same faces, and even the same mohel - Rebbe Yehuda Kaplan, who does the same artful job on this child as on the little boy’s brother, two years ago. We respect precedent in our family.