Bubbe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

June 9, 2011
I'm sitting on my unmade bed, blasting Guster through my pawnshop speakers and minding my own beeswax when my phone blasts out the unmistakable polka ringtone that means only one thing: Bubbe is calling.

Bubbe, my German-born grandmother, is the kind of relative who loves to nag. As I reach hesitantly for the phone, my hand trembling, I find myself wary of the green “talk” button. Aren't grandmothers supposed to bake you snickerdoodles and say you look beautiful, even with a zit the size of Jupiter? When I am on the phone with my grandmother, my life is under complete, utter, critical scrutiny, my habits examined under a microscope and prodded with a sharp fingernail, and I can't finish a sentence in my defense. “Hello, Bubbe, I was just-”

“Chatzmeleh! Hell-oo to you, I sink you never answer me!”

Step One of the weekly Bubbe phone call: the guilt trip with mandatory exaggeration.

“You too busy to answer your own Bubbe. Just a few minutes, that's all Bubbe asks, ze Bubbe zat changed your diapers and kept you from being ­eetzen by za shark? Bubbe all alone, rattle like a pea inside big house, her grandbabies should treat her better, for changing zer diapers.”

She did change my diapers (all of three times), but if she hadn't decided the neighborhood swamp was the perfect place for a little girl to cool off on a hot day, I might not have needed rescuing. And it was a snapping turtle, not a shark.

“Bubbe, I'm sorry, I was just-”

“Ach, maidel, now, I hear zat you only got a 96 on your report card in ze English class?”

Step Two: Grade carping, with unbearable Ivy League pressure.

“Well, I-”

“A 96! How do you expect to get into Harvard wis 96? Whole family go Ivy League, your cousin's third year at Yale, and you show up wis 96. Ach, ach, and in ze English class, no less. Isn't English vat you speak? Have spoken whole life, and 96. When I was a girl, ve sold our goat so I could go to school and learn ze English, and I vurk so hard. You so lazy, and 96. Missy, you need to buckle down, vurk hard!”

“Oh, Bubbe,” I sigh, knowing
what comes next. Step Three: the rip on my personal ­appearance, diminishing what little self-esteem I've been able to build up since our last conversation.

“And speaking of ze buckling down, maybe you start diet, too, eh?
I notice at Yom Kippur, you eat like animal ….”

Strange, as Yom Kippur is a day of fasting.

“You no want to get fat like ur muzzer. If look like whale, never catch a man. You say you have no date for ze prom? It's in your behind, chatz, zats why. Your clothes much too tight, like sausage coming out of stuffing, eh?”

I sigh, the rasp clear on the phone. Her voice ­suddenly grows surprisingly soft.

“Sveetie, you know I only push because I love, see? Want grandbabies to be successful. All for love!”

“Thanks, Bubbe.”

Her voice immediately sharpens again.

“But, chatz, I serious about zat 96.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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nikky917 said...
Nov. 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm
Saw this in the magazine edition, absolutely hilarious! 
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