Nana

Over a decade ago, my great-aunt and her husband (who technically speaking, could be my parents, but not my grandparents) became grandparents to a very cute baby girl.

Not feeling old, they looked for a young nickname for themselves instead of the regular “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. What they came up with was only semi-unique: Nana and Papu. (Can you guess which one is which?)

When I moved to Israel, it became obvious to me that my kids would also call them Nana and Papu, and not Aunt and Uncle, like I’d always called them. (However, we haven’t really been in touch regularly enough to actually warrant that.)

Nine years after my aunt and uncle chose their names, I gave birth to Shlomo – the first grandchild on either side (he was also the *only* grandchild, until Tova came along and changed that). Both my parents and Yitzchak’s had to choose grand-names for themselves.

Yitzchak’s parents chose Bubby and Zeidy (the Yiddish terms); my father chose Saba (the Hebrew term; it’s not a problem because every Saba we have in Israel is Saba Firstname). My mother didn’t want any of those names, but DID like my aunt’s name – and so she named herself Nana. My grandmother, who has always been Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) to me, has stayed Savta. Shlomo has other Savtas, but they are all Savta Firstname.

Honestly, it was weird for me. I’m not comfortable calling my mother Nana; maybe it’s because I don’t think of her as a grandmother, and maybe it’s because Nana was always my aunt. I think that’s it – I remember thinking to myself, “Um, Nana is Aunt, how am I going to un-mix them up? Maybe I just won’t call you Nana.” But I thought that so long ago, and only once – so I forgot about it, until now. And really, because of the distance, we hardly ever see our parents, anyways.

During Sukkot, we went to visit some cousins in Jerusalem. While we were there, we debated whether or not to join the cousins’ family gathering, and decided to go for it. This was a gathering of the children of my Aunt and Uncle; in other words, Nana, Papu, and their descendants. I told Shlomo that we were going to see all the cousins, and Nana and Papu. He thought that was great, and got very excited to see everyone, especially the people with the funny names (and especially Papu, whose name is funniest).

But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, and Shlomo had repeated “cousins,” “Nana,” and “Papu,” I knew I’d slipped up. Oops. Too late. But maybe . . . it doesn’t matter? Maybe . . . I should just take a deep breath and let it go . . . it actually kind of feels good to let that go; it feels right to have called them Nana and Papu. I didn’t mess up; I did what was natural and right. But . . . what am I going to do about my mother?

It had been so automatic and easy for me, and I hadn’t even realized that it was this natural for me to call them Nana and Papu. I haven’t called them that in years – and certainly not with my own kids. What was I going to tell my mother? Maybe I shouldn’t tell my mother – it’s not like it matters that much anyways.

I did tell my aunt later that day, and she didn’t understand what was so interesting. “Of course, yes, that’s what he should be calling us,” she told me. I guess she forgot that my mother copycatted her name . . . and that by Shlomo calling my aunt Nana, my mother has been simply, easily, painlessly . . . replaced.

Or not replaced, but in Shlomo’s mind, this person that he’s going to meet sometime soon (we didn’t end up going, because we just didn’t make it, for technical reasons) is Nana . . . I don’t know if he’ll realize that it’s a different voice, but if he doesn’t, he’ll assume that this is the Nana he’s spoken to on the phone.

It’s interesting how simple and painless that was . . . and odd how natural it was for me to call my aunt Nana.

But maybe it’s for the better . . . Shlomo needs present grandparents, just like every kid. If Yitzchak and I can rebuild our relationship with my aunt and uncle, then Shlomo might just have those grandparents . . . who are actually related to him, and not just “adopted” grandparents.

So now the question is this: Does my mother find herself a new name, considering that Shlomo is the only grandchild she has who is old enough, as of now, to call her by a name (nope, Tova isn’t talking yet) – and the transition will be simple and without confusion?

Or do I just rely on the fact that Shlomo is barely in contact with my mother, and find her a name for those times when he does happen to be around her? Maybe Nana Lastname? Nana Firstname? Or Mrs. Lastname? or Mama’s Mother? Grandmother? Or maybe I should explain that Aunt is Nana, but this person is a Different Nana?

I guess, as of right now, it doesn’t much matter. He hasn’t seen either Nana in years. When he sees Nana and Papu, I’ll think about it again. When we visit my mother and siblings – and I have no idea when that will be – we’ll decide what to do. My mother (I emailed her about it a few days ago) doesn’t seem to care; my aunt is slightly flattered, and mostly relieved. So, why waste energy worrying about which Nana keeps the name and which Nana changes her name?

I guess the lesson is, don’t be a copycat; it’s not nice and will always come back to bite you. Use your own brains – if you have them – and be original.

Copying on tests hurts you.

Copying in business doesn’t get you anywhere, and often ends up being your downfall.

Don’t copy names, either. When you do it in paper, it’s called plagiarism. When you do it with people, it’s confusing and just not nice.

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