In honor of Mother’s Day, Parentology is sharing stories of “Other Mothers” — women who aren’t the writer’s birth mother, but who still hold a special place in their lives. Meet Bubby.
She was there from before I can even remember. My parents and brand new me lived in a cottage attached to a farmhouse in Yardley, Pennsylvania. They hung burlap for curtains and painted each step a different color of the rainbow. A large departure from her designer decorated estate. She didn’t care.
She came straight from her tennis match at the club every morning. She walked in the front door and climbed up those rainbow steps to my room. She looked down at me in the crib and would squeeze my fat little legs and sing good morning. She’d then pick me up so she could munch on my chunky legs like they were lamb chops. She put me down, kissed me goodbye and headed out the door, probably to a charity luncheon, or a round of nine holes at the country club. Most days my mother never knew she was there. She came to see me. And that was okay with my mom.
To the world she is Nancy Levinson. To me she is Bubby. My Dad’s mom, Bubby, is a a powerhouse of love and support in my life. The affection and attention she gave me as a baby, then a child, and now as an adult, has grown into a deep relationship of mutual admiration.
I share her with one brother, two first cousins and all of our children. Together we’ve given her nine great grandkids. She always jokes that whoever is sitting next to her is her favorite. Even with this crowd and all the love she gives everyone, our connection has never weakened. No matter how many people were around us, when she looked into my eyes I felt a light inside myself turn on. A light that’s gotten brighter as I’ve grown.
Bubby is short, just under five feet tall. But she’s larger than life and commands a room the moment she walks in. Her hair and make-up always look salon-styled and her colorful and crisp clothes are always on trend. She’s never without lipstick, earrings and a necklace; perfectly paired with her outfit, shoes and bag. Her voice is loud and gravely, strong, politely demanding to be heard. It always wraps around me like a warm blanket. As a kid it was magical to be around her. I loved being swept up in her intense energy.
When I was 10, Bubby took me to lunch and then to a chic clothing store in town. This was a departure from the big box stores my mom usually took me to. “Pick out whatever you want,” she told me. My eyes went straight to a red corduroy vest with matching knickerbocker pants. It came with a black turtleneck and matching black and red checked socks and a taxi driver hat. Remember this was the early 80s. I tried it on. Bubby said, “Ooh, I love it.” She told the salesperson to ring it up without asking how much it cost. Who does that? Bubby does.
I felt invincible in that outfit. More than the slick duds, what made me feel invincible was the time we spent together that afternoon, and that this magical lady invited me to be just as fancy as her.
Years later, I had a bad break-up with a long-term boyfriend. I was in my twenties. Everyone was so supportive and understanding. “Oh, I’m so sorry. Everything’s going to be alright,” they would say. Not Bub. Her tone was tough, but loving. “Get up, stop crying, put your lipstick on and get back out there,” she told me. When she told you something, you listened. I stopped crying, put my lipstick on and got back out there. Soon afterwards I met my husband.
Bubby and I live on different coasts now. Even so, we talk one or two times a week. And I spend a week with her every summer. Just me and her. This has to be scheduled, though. She’s busy. She stopped playing tennis and golf some time ago, but this hasn’t slowed her down. Her weeks are packed with card games, dinner dates, luncheons and beauty shop appointments.
Like most of her generation, she’s lived through some tough times. She made it through with her vivaciousness, tenacity, smarts and sense of humor. All of which have helped shape who I am today. I’m so lucky to have her as a Bubby. And so lucky to still spend quality time with her.
Long gone are the days of shopping in boutiques and being spoiled like a child. I’m an adult now with kids, a mortgage and all the responsibilities of life. No matter. When we’re together, we’re like a younger version of ourselves, giggly and laughing. Her laugh is big, deep and loud, like the rest of her personality. There’s no shortage of amazing gifts she’s given me. The best one, though, is having her in my life as other mother.