Becoming A Grandmother Brought Out The Yiddish In Me

In February, my grandson was born. It was before all this pandemic mishegas (craziness), so I was able to visit him in the hospital and actually touch his little hands and marvel at his perfect toes. As I held him in my arms, the strangest thing happened – the words of love that spewed forth from my mouth were in Yiddish! He was my bubbeleh, (child), the cutest pitzsele (little thing), a zeeskeit (sweetness), a puppele (doll). 

Apparently, for me, terms of endearment seemed richer, fuller, more resonant in Yiddish, especially suited for a grandchild. I was surprised by the vocabulary by which my heart had subconsciously chosen to express itself. There is a trove of seemingly never-ending nouns and adjectives to depict the wonder of a child. I realized that these were the same words that had cloaked me with love and a tremendous sense of well-being and security when I was a child. Words that lay buried in my soul, half-forgotten, unused, waiting for the right moment to bubble up.

It was the language spoken in our house, by my parents, one fraught with layers of meaning – reminiscent of a town left, a life lost, of tremendous sorrows, yet laced with whispers of hope and redemption. It set us apart as immigrants, yet with the goal of becoming good Americans. It informed the way I thought (always answer a question with a question), my voice (sing-song), the cadence of our social life (gatherings where everyone spoke over each other, too impatient to let others finish their sentences). It also embodied a code of conduct – to be righteous, fair, understanding and empathetic. So many emotions wound into the spoken word.

So, these days, as I FaceTime with my ainikle (grandchild), sadly the sole source of our contact as we observe social distancing, I continue to slather him with my Yiddish words of love: his Bubbe (me) is farklempt (choked up) whenever she thinks of him, I kvell (get pleasure) from him, what a cute ponim (face) my tattele (little one) has, a gezunt of his keppele (a blessing on his little head), such nice pulkes (scrumptious little thighs), a sweet piskele (mouth), bekelach (cheeks) made for pinching. In fact, he has alle tam (full of taste), kinnahara followed by three spits against the evil eye.

When I see him, I shep nachos (draw pleasure). I have a groys fargenigen (great joy) from him. But most of all, I look forward to his growing up to be a mentsch (no translation needed).


Dessert Crepes (makes 15)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons butter for frying
  • Jam for filling

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour until the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and let rest for one hour.

In a nonstick frying pan, heat butter over medium heat. Once hot, pour ¼ cup batter into pan. Immediately pick up the pan and swirl the batter in all directions to coat the bottom evenly. Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the center dry, about a minute. With a spatula, flip the crepe over and fry until golden, about 30 seconds. Transfer the crepe to a plate. Fry the remaining batter.

To serve: Spread the crepes with jam and roll up like a jelly roll. Drizzle with powdered sugar.