Saturday, November 12, 2005

Where have all the Mee-maws gone?

Have you noticed that there is a trend among baby-boomer grandparents not to be called “Grandma” or “Grandpa?” Back in MY day, grandmothers were called Grammy, Gamma, Nannie, Nana, Mee-maw or Grandmama and grandfathers were called Pop, Pappy, Granddaddy, Gramps, or Gaffer. But the grandparents these days—what will they think of next? When we asked what the grandparents wanted to be called, my mother chose “Bee-bee” as her handle and my mother-in-law specified that “anything but Nana” would do (truth be told, both women have teensy, tiny mother-in-law issues, and both my and my husband’s paternal grandmothers go by “Nana,” so there you go). My friends with boomer-generation parents have similar naming issues. One friend’s parents are “Didi and E.J.” which I think is cute and sounds vaguely like a 60’s surf guitar group (“Wait, wasn’t this Didi and EJ’s only top-ten hit from 1969?”), one friend’s mom chose the Thai word for grandmother (which I can’t remember, but I do remember that her mom isn’t actually Thai, just lived there and likes the language) and I know several grandmothers who prefer “Mimi” or “Mae-Mae” to “Grandma.” It just sounds hip and eccentric, doesn’t it? Certainly more urbane and suave than Mee-maw, for heaven’s sake.

But as much as I agree that Bee-bee really is the perfect name for my mom, I kinda like the old-fashioned names. It says grandparents aren’t worried about sounding old—they’re grandparents! They’re ageless! I mean, to whom do you run when you want great-tasting buttermilk biscuits? Mee-maw, that’s who! Mimi might know a great place to get your brows waxed, but I don’t know how she’d be with making a potholder from loops of terrycloth fabric and a plastic loom. You need a Nana for that. And Mae-mae might make a mean chicken cordon bleu and asparagus with clarified butter and herbs de Provence, but is she going to wear that Easter hat your child made from tissue paper and Elmer’s glue to church? No—but I bet Grammy would.

Is this name game a fluke, confined to my parent friends and me, or is it a trend? I’d be interested to hear what your child calls (or, more interestingly, has been instructed to call) your parents or in-laws. Please tell me in the comments section!