Name Change

I’ve been asked more than once.  “Now that you are going to have your first grandchild, what do you want to be called? ”  I had to admit that until that moment, I hadn’t given the question much thought.  I was too busy being elated over the prospect that my eldest son and beautiful daughter-in-law were going to be adding a new member to the family, one who would be the object of coos, lullabies, and pure love.  Our children, so far, don’t wish to know the sex of our newcomer, and I think that is a great idea.  I clearly remember the surprise of the doctor announcing “It’s a boy!”  Turns out the same announcement was made two more times, and received with equal joy at the birth of our three sons.  This child will be a first in more ways than one; first grandchild and nephew or niece on both sides of the family.  If it is a girl, it will be a first for our family, and if a boy, a first for Jaime’s family.  Whatever it is, I can’t wait to look into his or her eyes, feel little fingers curl around my own, and inhale that sweet smell of baby once more. And I look forward to being the “book grandma” who presents the tyke with the classics and, later, the page-turners.  Which brings me back to the original question, what will the child call me? I admit that at first, the title of “grandma” stuck like a dry crumb in my throat.  After all, weren’t grandmas the ones who wore gray buns and washed aprons, who baked chocolate chip cookies, and sat on porches swaying in old rocking chairs?  Yikes!  That isn’t me at all.  I can’t even knit.  I am a writer, a college professor, a scholar, and a very busy person.  No, no time for rocking chairs.  I read somewhere that Goldie Hawn’s grandchildren call her “Glam-ma,”  while another friend, a singer, loves the pun, “Grammy.”  My own children called my mother “Bubby,” another name I would never have the audacity to adopt. But  in citing my various attributes, I just realized that I had forgotten one.  I am a child of Holocaust survivors.  My son, Howie, and Jaime too, are the third generation.  And now we will have a fourth generation–and on both sides.  Another link in the chain that proclaims we endure; better yet, we thrive.  Another link which reminds us of those we wish were still here, but also heralds the promise of the future.  I am so proud of the man my son, my sons, have become, and feel confident that both he and Jaime will be exemplary parents.  So, I can’t wait for the next act.  Hmm…Now that I think about it, “Grandma Shirley” does have a nice ring…


About shirleywachtel

Shirley Russak Wachtel is the author of The Story of Blima—A Holocaust Survivor (publ.2005), a novel which recounts the early years of her mother, Betty Weisstuch Russak. The novel s listed as a recommended novel by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education. Wachtel is the author of several children's books, including a series of interactive mysteries, Charlie Wonder, Chef-Detective (2005), which includes several recipes; Brad Sureshot, Coach-Detective (2007) which details basketball skills; and Howie Rocket, World-Traveler-Detective (2009) which has handy foreign language phrases. In The Mellow Light (2009) is her first book of poetry. She is a professor of English at Middlesex County College in New Jersey. In addition, Wachtel is the co-author of Spotlight on Reading (2011), a textbook for college-level students. A mother of three sons, she resides with her husband, Arthur, in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Initially written as a doctoral dissertation for her Doctor of Letters Degree from Drew University, My Mother's Shoes , says Wachtel, is not just the novel of her life, it is the novel of her heart.
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