I’m not a “little old lady” yet, but I will be someday soon. I’m a moderately quiet, petite woman of Italian and Jewish heritage. I speak my mind when I feel strongly about something, but I try not to make waves.
I considered myself a young grandmother, when, at age 42, my first granddaughter was born. I wanted her to call me “Grammy”, which didn’t sound as old as Grandma did. However, when she first learned to speak, she had given that name to her paternal grandmother. Therefore, I became Grandma. Five years later, my first grandson was born to my youngest daughter. Though we tried to teach him to call me Grandma, all that came out was “Ma”. Then, one day when he returned from a visit with his paternal grandparents, he started calling me “Minka”. We had no idea where the name came from or who taught it to him, especially when he called his other grandmother Mom-Mom. Though we tried to teach him to say “Grandma”, he insisted on calling me Minka.
Three years later, my oldest daughter had a second child, another girl. When she was learning to talk, she could not say Grandma as her older sister did, and she could not say Minka, as her cousin did. Somehow, she came up with the name “Honky”. We tried everything to get her to say Grandma or Minka, but she continued to favor “Honky”. Two years after her birth, her mother had given birth to a set of twins – a boy and a girl. When they first began talking, they couldn’t’t say Grandma, Minka, or even Honky. They started calling me Huggie, which I could live with. A year after the twins were born, my youngest daughter had her second child, a girl who started to call me Huggie, and then switched to Minka. Three years later, a third child – another girl – was just learning to speak. She couldn’t’t quite get Minka, so she called me “Inka”. I even signed birthday cards and Christmas presents using the name each one called me.
I didn’t mind being called Grandma, Minka or even Huggie. However, when I had taken my second-born granddaughter to the beauty salon with me, she called me “Honky” within earshot of my beautician and several other patrons. It was suddenly so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I was mortified. Once I explained why she called me Honky, everyone resumed his or her conversations. At that point, my daughter and I insisted all the grandchildren call me either Grandma or Minka.
Now, after eighteen years as a grandparent, the only one who calls me Grandma is my oldest granddaughter. The next six grandchildren all call me Minka. My youngest grandson, now two, cannot or will not say Grandma or Minka. He calls me Gaga – and I am nothing like Lady Gaga. I am waiting to hear what my youngest and last granddaughter will call me when she starts to speak.