If you’ve ever met my grandmother, you’ll definitely never forget her.
Dressed to the hilt, smile as wide and sweet as the kokosh rolls she bakes every Erev Shabbos, she’s the type who not only knows everyone but is everyone’s best friend. Everywhere we go together, people know Mrs. Suri Heiman*, or “Sure’le,” as she’s affectionately called. She’s larger than life, you could say, the type of person who makes you smile when you pass her on the street. My grandfather good-naturedly calls her a magnet, and I have to agree.
We einiklach (who, baruch Hashem, number in the forties) are a bit obsessed with Bubby Suri, and for good reason. Every birthday, we get a special phone call and a card in the mail from her. Every Erev Shabbos, wherever we are in the world, Bubby makes a point of calling to see how we’re doing. And whenever we’re in town, our visit is not complete until we drop in at Bubby’s house, where there’s always fresh kokosh waiting for us, along with a cup of coffee the way only she knows how to make it.
Bubby was a constant presence in our lives when we were growing up. Bubby has been present for every single life-cycle event imaginable, from siddur parties to graduations to Purim and Chanukah mesibahs, and everything in between. She always has a kind word and an encouraging smile. I don’t think I have ever heard my grandmother speak disparagingly about anyone, not even her housekeeper, who is notoriously lazy. If I need advice, Bubby’s the one I call. After my mother, she’s the first one to be updated on the baby’s new tooth or a promotion at work.
My mother has the distinction of being Bubby’s only daughter, which means that the two of them are beyond close. I remember telling my husband-to-be that I dreamed of one day having a relationship with my own daughter like the one my grandmother has with my mother—a special kind of closeness that defies description. Today, you find people harping about “lack of boundaries” and “dysfunctional” relationships where the mother and daughter are “enmeshed.” What I can tell you is that my mother and my bubby have achieved what comes pretty close to perfection in their connection with each other.
I remember once in high school, as I was talking with great enthusiasm about going to Bubby’s house for Shabbos, a girl next to me rolled her eyes.
“Are you for real?” she asked. “Don’t you live across the street from your grandmother? What’s the big deal about going to her for Shabbos? Puh-leeze!”
I was so taken aback that I just laughed. How could she not understand how much we adored our grandmother? Didn’t all girls have that same gift in their lives?
Well, I’m out of high school 15 years now, and it’s still a thrill to be hosted by my grandmother for Shabbos! She is someone we never take for granted, so when my mother texted all of us that a big birthday was coming up, the entire family—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—rallied to organize a huge bash. Of course, as the sole daughter in the family, my mother was responsible for most of the planning and delegating, although her five sisters-in-law were very eager to help out. Plenty of whispering began, with lots of code words and elaborate pretenses as we plotted and planned for the special day. We were all in on the huge surprise, hoping to put together an event that would do justice to our beloved bubby.