The Name Game

When I was pregnant Geoff and I thought a lot about what Theron would call each of her grandparents. Both sets of our parents are divorced and all but my mother-in-law are remarried so it's more complicated than it sounds. Not only did we have to think up seven terms of endearment, but then each must be reviewed and approved by the appropriate grandparental unit. Except for my dad and step-mom, this was the first grandchild for everyone so the only givens were Packy and Nana. Packy was supposed to be Pappy but grandbaby number one tweaked it through the power of mispronunciation and a Packy was charmed into existence.

It occured to us early on that my mother-in-law had also granted us a freebie of sorts. Her name is Mimi and everyone, my husband included, calls her this. It fits too. She is 'Mimi the Mahjong Maven' queen of the patio home community. When we asked if she'd mind her granddaughter calling her Mimi, she looked confused. What else would she call me? I told her we'd been considering Granny then had to think quick when she flicked her lit cigarette at my head.

My husband's father and step-mother ended up being equally simple. The most traditional of the lot, Grandpa and Grandma seemed the obvious choices. They must have thought so too because as I recall we never actually discussed it with them but when they visited Theron about a week after she was born they referred to each other that way all afternoon. Grandma, why don't you go inside and get Grandpa a whiskey. Grandpa, Grandma's going out front to smoke a cigarette. VIRGINIA. ULTRA. SLIMs. See? Traditional.

Things went smooth like that all the way through my step-dad, a self-proclaimed PaPaw, until we slammed into the 5 foot brick wall that is my mother. Having been a very young mother herself, Madre was witheringly unimpressed by the idea of being identified as anyone's grandmother. She couched this in a wish to have the baby pick the name - an 'organic' process. I reminded her that babies aren't born with speech but she was steadfast. I told her a cautionary tale about my friend Deb whose organic
grandson-given name is Grankle. GRANKLE. A combo of Granny and Wrinkle from the sound! Still unwavering.

So we did what any lucid parents-to-be would do. We decided to overrule her. I thought if we picked something quirky, not readily recognizable as a grandma's name, that she would be pacified. After some kicking about we settled on Nani. At the time I thought it sounded European even though I pretty much made it up from Nana. Turns out it really is a term for grandmothers in the Hindi culture. MATERNAL GRANDMOTHERS.

The woman poo-poo'ed us. Rolled her eyes, shook her pixie head and retorted in a negatively guttural way. Use your words, Nani. She decided she would pick the name if we wouldn't wait for the baby to do it.

Meanwhile, Geoff and I amused ourselves throughout the rest of my pregnancy referring to my mom as Nani - in and out of her presence. By the time Theron was born it was impossible for us to stop. PaPaw had been calling her Ma for eons so he stuck to that. She ignored us all and began referring to herself as Grandma but I could tell her heart wasn't in it.

At Christmas I labeled half of her gifts to Grandma and half to Nani. She signed her gifts to Theron as Grandmaw. About a month later she started in with GrandmaMaw, an attempt at solidarity with PaPaw. Now she did marry him, but this IS a man who wears short plaid ties with striped short-sleeved, button-down shirts. How united did she want to be?

Last week Mom called while Theron and I were running errands. She left a message about having dinner with her and PaPaw that weekend and asked me to call. Then, almost like an afterthought except I know better, she said this. Oh, I've been thinking and I think I want Theron to call me Grandmere.

I dialed her number. She answered.

Grankle it is then.


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