Baby's arrival will be grand, no matter what

But the newborn's first job is to figure out what to call me

August 26, 2010|Susan Reimer

When you enter grandparent land, the first thing you are asked upon your arrival is, "Do they know what they are having?"

By this it is meant, do the parents know what sex the baby is, not whether they are having an alien or a box turtle.

The second question — and it is only asked by women of women — is, "Do you know what you want to be called?"

This is a lot harder to answer, especially if you are having a hard time seeing yourself as a grandmother because you still think of yourself as a thirty-something.

I am entering grandparent land, and I have to say that I don't care whether my grandchild is a boy or a girl. And I don't care what name my son and his lovely wife give the child.

But I am worried about what the child will call me.

"Grandma Reimer," to distinguish me from the child's other grandma, will never do. Grandma Reimer was how my own mother was known to her grandchildren. And I don't even want to go there.

My sister snagged "Grammy" when her first grandchild arrived. But that was how my own grandmother was known to us. And "Gramma" was how my children knew my husband's mother. These titles don't seem reusable to me, somehow. They come with so many memories and not a little baggage.

My friend Betsy's husband, Ron, thinks I should be called, "Gunny," as in gunnery sergeant, but I am not amused.

Even the thought of "Nana," "Me-maw" or "Mimi" is more than I can stand, though I am toying with the sound of "Gama."

They say the baby will name me, making something up out of its inability to pronounce my chosen name or from its own imagination.

That's what happened with some of my nieces and nephews. Failing to pronounce "Susan" when they were little, they came up with "Sue-you." All these years later, I am still "Auntie Sue-you" to them.

My husband is playing the part of the superstitious old Croatian woman, and is refusing to discuss such matters until the baby is safely here, though I think it is a ruse to cover his squeamishness. He looked as if he would faint when he saw the sonogram pictures.

For years he has been known as "Uncle Chloroform" among the adults in our family for his ability to put even the fussiest baby to sleep on his chest, and then fall asleep himself. But that's a mouthful for any child. Some of the kids call him "Gar-bear," which I think might be shortened to "Bear" before this is all over. But who knows?

Other cultures have favored grandmother names, but there aren't too many winners here, either. "Ya-Ya?" "Babushka?" "Bub-be?" Where's the glamour? Where's the style?

And that, after all, is the bottom line. Like so many women my age, I am eager to have a grandchild, but not thrilled about the category his or her arrival puts me in. I cling to a much younger vision of myself.

One more name story.

I was unmarried and childless when the first of my nieces and nephews started to arrive 30 years ago. I would breeze into town and take them out for Chinese food, or to bookstores or to a play. I told them I wanted them to think of me as their "Eclectic Aunt Susan."

All these years later, I still think of myself that way.

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