Like most people, I at one time had two sets of grandparents. Two of the four people I actually adored, and fortunately for all parties involved, they were both in one set. The other two I couldn't stand. And no, I don't feel guilty saying I couldn't stand them, because they're dead now. But even if they were still alive, I wouldn't have any qualms about saying I wasn't crazy about them.
Bubby and Poppop were the cute grandparents, the parents of my mother. Bubby was from Kiev, a seamstress, and stood 4'7" if you didn't count her black bouffant hair. Poppop was from Warsaw, a baker, and towered over her by about eight inches. The two of them came here from Cuba in the early '40s with my mother in tow, and both retained their very distinctive accents for as long as they were alive. These were the grandparents who cooked (both of them) and whose food was scrumptious, whose wonderfully ostentatious apartment smelled like kasha and brisket and all things Jewy. They were the grandparents who spoke Yiddish. They, Clara and Isaac, were my "real" grandparents.
Ann and Jack (who I always had a difficult time even referring to, let alone addressing as, "Grandmom" and "Grandpop") were, well, how do I put this delicately? -- goyish. I could never quite convince myself that they were really Jews. I don't know if Ann cooked. If she did, it was certainly, obviously, forgettable. I do know that Jack ate, as his girth evidenced. I had a feeling they didn't know what a bagel was, or, if they did, they bought them prepackaged. (Bubby and Poppop, on the other hand, always had amazing bagels, which were the product of Poppop's hands and thus that much more delicious.) Their apartment was never redolent with the comforting aromas of food, but infused with a certain mothballian mustiness.
I never felt at home (in any sense of the word) with Ann and Jack, and never felt as if I shared anything in common with them. The opposite was the case with Bubby and Poppop. Now, every day when I put on lipstick, every day when I put on my shoes (always with at least two-inch heels), every week when I get my manicure, I am reminded of Bubby, who never left the house without any of the three. When I examine my reflection in the mirror, the dark circles under my eyes are the same ones that shadowed Poppop's eyes. And the few times that I've made kugel, I've used their recipe. (It's fantastic. Email me if you want it.)
Anyway, the point is that until recently, I didn't think I inherited any traits from my paternal grandparents. But just this weekend, I discovered that maybe I did. What it was, was this: Jack used to chase me and my brother and sister around his and Ann's apartment with a camera and insist that we have our pictures taken. It must've traumatized me, because I really can't remember if he actually succeeded. And I certainly can't remember seeing any of the pictures. Anyway, I've become somewhat obsessed with my new digital camera. I've been chasing the dog and cat around the apartment, calling their names out like some sort of deranged paparazzi. The dog doesn't seem to mind, and in fact he'll sometimes even pose. But I'm sure that quite a few times the cat murmured a rather pointed and nasty "Fuck mew" before turning her back. Or ducking her head at the exact moment I think I'm going to finally catch her.
So this past Saturday afternoon, when I saw my sister, I tried to take a picture of her, several times. I heard myself insisting. And felt myself even getting a little annoyed when she would turn her head every time I approached. Then I tried another tactic. I pretended to be Jack. I pretended to chase her, and held the camera up to my eye as if I were going to snap a shot. But it was only when I jokingly said, "Who the hell am I? Jack?" and we both shuddered, that I realized that I don't share Jack's obnoxious trait. Whereas Jack would hound us until we cried, I stopped -- and had a good laugh.fresh-baked at 08:27 AM