“Yes!” Buby said, “Yes Dahlink!”

My Buby told me that she had been “quite a lively dancer,” when she was young.  Even in her clunky chunky heels with a Darvon in her system she’d be game to step out onto a tennis court, or you’d find her planting fish-heads by some corn in our yard, “the way the Indian used to do.”

Andy came home from the farmer’s market with Lilacs yesterday and a flood of memories came back, color and smell transporting me to childhood; it was my Buby who adored the lilacs, who would cut some from the bountiful hedges that neither my mom or dad could really care less about and bring them in, set them apart to really be seen… just the way Andy, my mountain flower, does with peonies, gladiola, orchids and now lilacs (and that’s just what’s vased around me as I write this post.  Yes! I am fortunate, and doubly so to know it).

I had wanted to plant lilacs in my yard when we finally got a yard, but lilacs need a hard frost and Studio City is hard-frost-impaired, and thus it has been many a moon since I saw and smelled freshly cut lilacs.  And when I did, the back of my mind was pondering Momalom’s final five-for-ten theme:  “Yes.”

And then it hit me, in contrast to my parents’ “no,” I grew up with my Buby’s “Yes.”

Can you take us to the hobby store?  “Yes,” Buby said, strapping on her babushka like a leather flight helmet and piloting the Pontiac, her view between the dashboard and the arc of the steering wheel.

“Can we buy a model?”  “Yes,” Buby said, carefully pulling money from a well-ordered purse and a neatly clasped wallet, her modest fixed income doled out sans guilt.  She was patient as we walked through the vast Hobby Models store at Devon and Western, the back room filled with ornate trains powering round and round their little worlds.  Sometimes we got rockets.

“Can we have francheesies?”  “Yes,” Buby said, sitting across from my brother and I across from Hobby Models, in a booth in The Gold Coin restaurant, she ordering blintzes or borscht for herself, and allowing us kindelah to eat hot dogs stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, violating every dietary law she followed.  Still no guilt, no judgment.

“Can we stay and see the second movie?”  “Yes,” Buby said, sitting beside us in the ornate but fading movie palace, my parents cavorting around Europe.  We sat and watched Midnight Cowboy unfurl—male prostitute comes to New York City and becomes best friends with homeless Ratso Rizzo (a MUST SEE BTW), flashbacks of the brutal rape of Joe Buck, the “midnight cowboy,” helps us understand his repetition compulsion, shame and torment (but not when you’re twelve—we could really not fathom why men were pulling his pants down).  In the end, Ratso dies, on a bus to Florida, held tenderly by Joe (we were all crying).  It was inappropriate, and great, and it made me want to be a filmmaker.

That same trip we went to see Barbara Streisand in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, but not because we liked musicals staring Babs, but because the theater switched from the matinee feature to an R-rated film called The Baby Makers at the evening show.  “Can we stay for the other film, Buby?”  “Yes, dahlink.”

After watching the film—about a couple who can’t conceive, hiring a sexy young girl to carry the father’s baby, with total nude scenes and a sexual betrayal that ends with lovers being doused with blue paint, not to mention a red spot in white shorts when the nubile young lass loses the first pregnancy (none of which we remotely understood)—we asked Buby if she thought that it was okay for us to have seen that.  “Of course, dahlink, it’s time you learned about the making of the babies” she chimed in her singsong Austrian-Hungarian accent.

When I was really little and Buby told me that God was everywhere, I asked her if God was in my pocket.  “Yes,” Buby said, and she said it like she knew what she was talking about.

When I tried to trick my brother into drinking laxatives, he saw that Swiss Kriss floating atop the hot cocoa.  “Do you want to drink it, Buby?”  And Buby said, “Yes.”

When my parents were on yet another trip, the “orient” I think it was, I was thirteen, cutting Hebrew school and acting out.  I ran away and came back and was outside cursing my Buby up and down to my brother for everything my parents didn’t stick around to hear.  I turned and saw her standing in the open doorway.  Did you hear everything I said?  “Yes,” Buby said, not hurt, not angry, but wise.  She made a cup of tea, sat down and talked with me at the kitchen table.  She didn’t make everything all better, and so she rides with me in my heart and informs the way I try to roll.

While parents have to balance love and limits, grandparents get to say, “Yes.”

So, in honor of my beloved and long dead in body and yet very alive in spirit Buby, I crib from James Joyce, that Yes Man! di tutti literary Yes-saying-men, and from Molly Bloom, pendulum swaying like Buby breasts, from the lusty back to the loving, wholesome and nourishing:

“I was a pisher of the suburb yes dahlink when Buby Rose put saltwater in my nose like the gypsies did or shall I wear quiana yes dahlink and how she scrubbed hard my face by the sink shayna punim and I thought well as well her as another and then I asked her with my eyes to ask again yes dahlink and then she asked me would I yes dahlink to say my lilac Buby and I put my arms around her yes dahlink and let her hold me so she could feel my loneliness yes dahlink and her heart was steady and wise and yes dahlink I heard yes dahlink I love you Yes.”

Namaste, Bruce (and Buby)


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29 Responses to ““Yes!” Buby said, “Yes Dahlink!””

  1. Amber Says:

    Your “Buby” sounds like an awesome grandma. I have heard many people talk about the benefits of grandparenting. Grandparents are allowed to say yes a whole lot more than parents. It’s basically spoiling without the consequences. : )

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      She was awesome (although my mom and uncle were clearer on her shortcomings, I got the best of her love). I hope one day I’ll get to enjoy spoiling and letting my kids be the limit-setters.

  2. Jenn M Says:

    What a beautiful story. And you write absolutely beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

  3. amommymous Says:

    She sounds like an amazing woman and you’ve honored her well with your beautiful memories and writing.

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    This sings to me, Bruce, straight into my orphaned heart, and my survivor’s spirit where my own departed grandparents and great aunts and uncles seeded the melody of their accents, their eccentric personalities, their survivor stories, their quirky grace, their steadfast presence.

    How fortunate we are to remember those who loved us with yes.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      If I squint a little I can see them all around us, bringing comfort and dark humor in well apportioned measure. All Good Wishes for your orphaned heart and all good pluck as well for your survivor spirit.

  5. Corinne Says:

    I would so love for you to send the message that grandparents are for saying yes to my inlaws… it pains me to see the control they try to hold over their grandchildren.
    Your Buby sounds incredible. Those memories are priceless.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Ah, control… that was the operative word with my parents. It’s too bad when the in-laws/grand parents go that route, for as the kids age they just grow indifferent when there could have been a great bond.

      I think it helped that my Buby was the youngest of ten kids so she got to be the baby long enough that by the time I was around she was ready to caregive in a much more chill manner than my parents could muster.

      Perhaps it’s better that you have controlling in-laws but that your kids get you every day. I probably idealize my Buby, but I’m still getting over the control thing closer to home.

  6. Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point Says:

    What a beautiful, heartwarming tribute to Buby. These kinds of memories are meant to outlive us. A grandparent’s love is indeed very different from a parent’s love and lucky are our children to have both.

  7. Linda at Bar Mitzvahzilla Says:

    Bruce, awesome story! The Gold Coin! Of course, I’ve been there. What an incredible story about your Buby and what an incredible woman she was! My grandparents – also with accents – weren’t quite so mellow or placid. On one side they were worn low by the Holocaust and I believe they had horrible survivor’s guilt. On the other side I had a cheery grandmother but who was too old to do anything (drive? No way!) but sit and admire the kinder.

    Thanks for this.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      The veil of the holocaust hung like mist over my family as well, and Buby lost her husband when she was in her thirties (see my Yom Kippur post from last year for more on that) which made her positivity all the more remarkable as I look back through maturing eyes.

      We probably sat in The Gold Coin at the same time unaware, synchronicity is like that. Shalom

  8. Terry Says:

    So did you vote thumbs up or thumbs down?

    I never got to meet any of my grandparents. Both sets died before I was born. But your Buby sure was special. And I love lilacs too. Too bad we can’t grow them in California.

    Your post was a pleasure to read. It transported me in time and place.

    My Dad was a wonderful father. Gentle and Kind. I miss him everyday. I still feel bad about the back to school night in Kindergarten when I introduced Dad to my teacher as my Grandfather.

    Jeffrey Schwarz did a wonderful documentary on him called Spine-Tingler, The WIlliam Castle story. I think its available through Netflix.

    Glad you found me in this virtual world. No telling what Dad would have done with all these toys!

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      He probably would have figured out how to plant the random virtual spine tingler into one of our posts 🙂

      So nice to connect in this place, around issues dearest to all our hearts.

  9. Jack Says:

    I lost my “last” grandmother this past March and now have only one grandparent left. Don’t misunderstand, I am thrilled to have my grandfather. I am 41, how many people still have grandparents at 41.

    Anyway, your story is beautiful and it made me think of my zayde- Must be 33 or 34 years since he died. Your words brought him back and for that I am thankful.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Sorry about your grandmother, but I guess you are lucky to have one left past forty. I started with one—maybe that’s what turbo-charged her specialness for me.

      My dad has become zayde… but that’s a whole other story, not suitable for “yes” if you know what I mean 🙂

      Q: how many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb?

      A: None, I’ll just sit here in the dark.

  10. Launa Says:

    Buby Rocks. We all should be so lucky as to have a woman like her in our lives. My Grandma June was not particularly permissive, but she said yes to loving me unconditionally… thanks for reminding me of her. Love your writing.

  11. Eva Says:

    Bruce, what a beautiful picture you paint of of your Buby Rose….she was obviously very dear and close to you. I can only imagine that both my Bubie’s would have been as warm and loving and always saying ‘yes’ to my every wish, just as my children’s buby (my mum) said to them.

    Funny, I used to always question her as to why she would say ‘yes’ to her grandchildren but, as I remember, say ‘no’ to the same thing with her children. Her answer was always the same….. a grandparent can enjoy the moment with their grandchildren with not necessarily having to think of the consequences, it’s your role to show them what you feel is the correct way….I’ve already done that with my children.

    Here’s to the loving memory of wonderful Bubies + Zaides.

    There must be something spiritual happening with your post on this topic happening today, as it happens to be the Yarzeits (anniversary of the death) of all 4 of my grandparents and both our many great-uncles + great-aunts …..Shavuoth 1944. Not sure if you knew this???

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I’m feeling chills of horror and of love reading this, Eva and tears come to my eyes. I did not know the exact date, although of course I know it in my soul—and now I know it consciously via our connection. This I must meditate upon and process.

      The only thing that stops me from plunging into despair when I think of the reality of what you say is Agnes farting enormously beside me.

      Here’s to honoring ALL of our collective ancestors and the eternal and unnamable Love in which we dwell.

  12. Beth K Says:

    What a remarkable woman your Buby was. And an important influence in your life.
    My Grammy loved me unconditionally. I can recall her disagreeing with me or my choices a few times, and it was clear that she totally loved and approved of me as a person and that her issue was only with the particular choice I made or opinion I held.
    I loved her despite her prejudices. Her responses to my long-term serious relationship with a Korean-American boyfriend in college were to put a book entitled “Mandarin Jews” in my room in her house and to arrange a date for me with her Jewish accountant. She meant well.

  13. Sarah Says:

    You got me with the God is Everywhere line. God is in your pocket. And saying it like she knew what she was talking about.

    You got me with the difference between the juggling act of parenthood, and the YES act of grandparenthood. My mom and I talk about this all the time. How she’s so happy to be at a point in her life where she can say yes.

    I am intrigued by your stories, Bruce. And I can smell those lilacs in the picture!

    Lovely, all the way around.

  14. Kelly Says:

    Your Buby was a remarkable woman. I didn’t have the benefit of grandmothers growing up (one died when I was a baby, one lives 3,000 miles away) and my grandfather was not the Yes sort, but I see my own mother reveling in that grandmotherly spirit. I can only imagine what precious and heart-filling memories my children and their cousins will have from their days with her.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Hi Kelly, Having a mom like that is a fantastic blessing—and there can be little doubt but that you carry that “yes” grandmotherly spirit forward as a mom, and perhaps one day as a “Buby” (no matter what name compassion and love travel by).

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