The ringing of the phone startled me. I was in the middle of struggling to finish that day’s New York Times crossword puzzle. It was 7:00 a.m. Who could it be? Probably too early for a crank call. Should I check caller ID? Had to be something important,didn’t it? Could it be the call I’d been been expecting for the past few weeks?
Taking a chance, I answered the phone.
“Mazel tov! Mazel tov!,” said a male voice, but not the one I hoped to hear.
“Everything okay?” I asked.
“Of course,” said the voice.
It took me a moment to realize I was speaking to Shloime, my daughter-in-law’s father. He went on to say that our eight-year-old granddaughter had just called with the good news and asked him to call us.
For half a second, I felt put off. Our older son and his family live half way around the world. Even so, didn’t we deserve a direct phone call? Then I remembered the times our son had called us after a new birth and had asked us to relay the good news to his in-laws.
“What’d she have?” I asked, my fingers starting to tingle. That same thing happened after each of my sons was born and it continues to happen after each grandchild is born. The arrival of each one is super special for me.
“She had a boy,” said Shloime. “After all those girls, don’t you think she was hoping for a boy?
And I’m pretty sure I know what they’ll name him.”
Too excited to continue the conversation, I couldn’t think of much to say other than “Mazel Tov.” But I did wonder why Shloime was so sure he knew what our new grandson’s name would be.
After I hung up, it came to me. In our tradition, babies are named in memory of those who are deceased. As of yet, no one had been named in memory of my Shloime’s father. So that’s probably who our new grandson’s name would come from. But we’ll have to wait a week to find out because in our tradition baby boys aren’t officially named until the day of their circumcision.
The name could wait but I couldn’t wait to share the good news.
It never fails that when people find out how large my family is, they are amazed and ask if I have any trouble remembering each grandchild’s name. The first time this happened, I was really annoyed but stopped myself from shouting, “Of course I remember each name!”
“Not a problem,” I now say, taking that question in my stride while recognizing how rare large families have become in today’s world.
I have to keep reminding myself that we’re all intrigued by situations that are outside our realm of experience. For that very reason, we tend to ask questions that may be perceived as naive or intrusive by those in the know.
My older son, who lives on the other side of the world, now has ten children; my younger son,who lives in the States, now has three. As the grandmother of thirteen, people assume I have a favorite.
“No, I don’t,” I insist.
“You sure?” they press me.
“Well…to tell you the truth,I do have a favorite. It’s whoever is sitting or sleeping on my lap.”