You are here

No, No, Nona

Is anyone else's mother struggling with what to be called? My mother emailed the other day, asking if she could switch from Nana (her first idea), to Nona.

I replied that she — in fact — could not. While her grandmother, my great-grandmother, might have been part Italian, and this is only a rumor based on the spelling of her maiden name, my mother herself is certainly not Italian. And with images of Strega Nona dancing in my head, I informed her that she also is not a bearded crone from the old country.

"Well, if you put it that way..."

My mother complied. We're back to Nana.

My great-grandmother did not speak English. I barely knew her. I met her once. She was very old, and in a wheelchair. I was told she spoke French and Arabic, though I don't recall hearing her speak. My parents, sister, and I had traveled from California to New York for a family reunion. I think I was around 9 years old.

My great grandmother had had 12 children, who all married and had children, who all married and had children... Probably around 200 people at the big event. All related to me. It was overwhelming.

There was a party in a hall with a giant poster of a handwritten family tree, and Kosher Sephardic food.

What I remember most distinctly is one of the less busy days of the trip: My grandmother and one of her sisters, the two of them at the kitchen sink at my great-grandmother's house, arguing over who would get to do the dishes; nudging and jostling each other like a control-freak version of The Bump. I stood behind and watched in awe as their hips fought for primary position.

I called that grandmother "Grandma," though one set of my cousins on that side had one of those kids can’t pronounce it so they made up a name for her: "Meemaw."

It had never occurred to me that people around us might want to choose their names when the baby comes. Scott's family seems to have a better handle on the whole alternative-names thing. His grandfathers were/are Dida and Pappy. Great-grandfather was Papa.

Baby is due in nine weeks, but many more weeks will pass before he can speak. Still,the name games have begun...

What do your kids call their grandparents? How did that get decided? Please share in the comments below.

comments