Why I’m not “grandma”

I overheard a middle-aged man ask somewhat rhetorically, “Why don’t women want to be called grandma anymore?” I don’t know where he’s been hanging out, but I know plenty of women who love being called grandma. While, I love being a grandma, it’s not the name my grandchildren use, so I’ll answer his question.

First of all, it’s not about pride. I don’t think people look at me and think “grandma,” but they’re also not surprised to learn I am one. I’m certainly within the age range, and I’m content with that fact. I readily admit to being a grandma so I can talk to you about my granddaughters until your eyes roll. I proudly carry their photos and am ready to whip them out at the slightest mention. Consider yourself warned!

It is, however, a matter of practicality. Babies cannot say grandma. As they approach their first birthday, they can say simple syllables such as da, ma, ha (translated “hi”) and ba (translated “bye”). Between the ages of one and two, they add more words to their vocabulary, like mine and everyone’s favorite, NO!

We make it easy for these little budding linguists to say grandpa, by shortening it to “papa.” However, you can’t shorten “grandma” in the same manner. Babies have ONE “mama” and that’s a sacred relationship.

So, being the practical person that I am, I went in search of a name my grandchildren could pronounce – something simple. I know a few grandmas who are referred to as Mimi. Cute, simple and easy to pronounce, but that’s what my son called me as he was transitioning from saying mama to mommy. Somehow that didn’t seem right, and it’s also the name my son’s mother-in-law chose to use.

With my usual *finesse, I searched the internet and found a site that provides the word for grandma in other languages. I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty much a mixture of anything and everything Northern European. I’m Irish, English, German and Flemish with a tad-bit of Cherokee thrown in. In other words, I’m a mutt. However, since my Irish heritage is strongest, I looked up the Gaelic word for grandma. I found the following translation and definition: seanmháthair, literally meaning “old mother.” Children would not be likely to address a grandmother by this term. They would use instead Maimeó or Móraí.

It’s self-evident that I’m an “old mother,” so I chose not to have my grandchildren announce that fact every time they called my name. Besides, seanmháthair is even tougher to pronounce than grandma. I clicked the on the pronunciation of maimeó and heard, maw-moh. Okay, we have a winner!

My husband and I are Poppa and Mamo, respectively, and our almost two-year-old granddaughter has no problem saying either name. She actually demonstrated this for the congregation at church as her mother was taking her to the nursery midway through the sermon. As they were leaving the sanctuary we heard her strong, sweet voice saying, “Buh-bye, Poppa! Buh-bye, Mamo!” Her mother may have been slightly embarrassed, but it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Avon calling!

Avon_1I grew up in the era of door-to-door sales. It’s pretty uncommon today, but I can clearly remember my mother wanting to hide from those peddlers of vacuums, cleaning products, and encyclopedias. However, one door-to-door salesperson was always welcome; the Avon lady.

I used to love watching the Avon lady unpack her bag with the latest fragrances in the most unusual decanters. Men’s cologne in a bottle shaped like a car was the perfect Father’s Day gift. And who wouldn’t want to collect the bride and groom figurines filled with your choice of Moonwind, Occur, or my personal favorite, Sweet Honesty? From perfume to makeup to jewelry, Avon had it all and brought it conveniently to your living room!

A few years after I married, I came home from work and found a plastic bag attached to my front door with a familiar logo. The Avon lady had visited! I began pouring over the pages of the catalog and marking items I’d long forgotten that I needed. I called the number on the back of the catalog and placed my order. Thus began a friendship with my Avon lady, Eileen.

Eileen was about my mother’s age and had the greatest Canadian accent. She was always dressed very nicely and accessorized with the latest Avon jewelry. Her makeup was flawless. She was a living, breathing advertisement for her company. She was also very personable. Not long after I met Eileen, we became neighbors. The husband and I purchased the home next door to her and her husband Hec.

Over the five or six years we were neighbors, we had the opportunity to learn more about this interesting couple. Hec had served in the Canadian Army during World War II, and Eileen had moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a secretary assisting in the war effort. They immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s (which was quite the story!). Our friendship and bond was solidified when Hec had a heart attack and my husband performed CPR until Hec could be transported to the hospital.

Shortly afterward, we moved from that neighborhood, and Hec and Eileen moved a few years later, as well. Our contact was reduced to the occasional Avon purchase and Christmas cards. We were excited to attend Hec’s 80th birthday party and had a great time catching up. As we left, we promised to visit more often.

Unfortunately, we waited too long to fulfill that promise and Hec passed away. We were out of town during his funeral, which made it worse. We missed our window of opportunity. We vowed to not make that mistake with Eileen.  However, time has a way of passing, and before we knew it, six years had passed.

We took action a few weeks ago and met Eileen for breakfast. She hasn’t changed. She’s moved to a retirement center, which is a little like a resort. Her apartment is small, but she was able to fit in many of the things she cherishes, including her grandfather clock and of course, her Avon collectibles.

The days of door-to-door sales has past. In fact, most of us can easily purchase almost anything we want or need online without any personal interaction. Although it’s extremely convenient, it’s also a little sad. Nothing really compares to that one-on-one we got from our Avon lady. She lived in our town and knew our neighbors. She provided the latest information about everything from road construction to the newest restaurants. She was a fixture in our lives. Best of all, my Avon lady became my friend.