November 11 is my grandmother’s birthday. She left us in 2001, but it doesn’t matter: each year on November 11 I think of her, and talk about her, as i did when she was alive, and every November 11, no matter what the year, it always is her birthday. It always is the day i give thanks for having had her, having been related to such an extraordinary person, and having been nurtured by her.
When I was little she would never accept my doing for her or buying her gifts, she was say: “please, keep your money, don’t get for me!” After i left home, I wished i could have given her birthday parties and taken her places and in general treated her like the queen she deserved to be treated like, but she was firm in the grip of family life in Sacramento, where I and my wishes held no sway. The rest of the family had authority to take her places, do for her, even visit her, I could only do what they told me to. But what could i do, i had to put my faith in the fact that they loved her. But in the end, to be honest, I could not protect her when she was vulnerable as she could not protect me when i was small and vulnerable.
My biggest regret–no one’s fault, the fault of time’s ravages only– was that at age 90+, she was unable to travel to the UK to see her grand-daughter, Leah: far right in the picture with Bachi, graduate from Medical School. Speaking on the phone to Bachi, listening to her rich New York accented voice, she was so happy, and proud, so proud. Her little Leah, a doctor.
Leah was very close with her Bachi, as was my brother and I. I divorced when Leah was tiny, and i brought her often to Bachi, all the time often. At her house with Snooki, former hairdresser-poodle, white fluffy Snooki who was devoted to Bachi, and when Leah came along, devoted to her as well. Here is the thing about Bachi that of all the wonderful things that people know/knew about her, I don’t think that many realized: she was so much fun. Such a sense of playfulness. Most people saw her as classy (she was), hard-working (no one worked harder), efficient (very, about everything). Energetic: don’t even ask.
But fun: so much fun to be with. When Leah was there Bachi would serve her signature dessert–coffee ice cream–in teeny tiny little thimble sized cups to her, and she would set them all out for little Leah to eat from them, little spoon, little tongue, big flavour and enjoyment. And then there were the checkbooks: Bachi worked for my uncle running the office of the plumbing business and insurance office, bringing home MASSIVE bags of paperwork every night. Huge shopping bags filled with paperwork. As she did her work, Leah wanted to do work too. Bachi shared her work with Leah: checkbooks. A big bag of checkbooks, and Bachi would toss them all over the floor, for Leah and her to crawl after…….it was like celebrating New Years Eve! Throw the checkbooks, crawl after them, giggle giggle giggle, laugh until you cry, then throw them again and crawl crawl crawl, laughing all the way…..and then there was “bang on the pots”: wooden spoons, big pots, hit hit hit until you couldn’t take it anymore.
For Leah, these games started when she was tiny: crawling baby tiny. And continued until she was six or eight, around the time that Bachi broke her hip which facilitated two things: her daughters “convinced” her (she was never convinced, always mourned her own home and feeding all who came) to sell her house and move into assisted living. And my mother gave away her beloved little poodle, Snooki, when Bachi was in the hospital. She blamed Snooki for Bachi’s fall. Snooki was blameless; her hip snapped because it was ready to anyhow. She loved Snooki and Leah loved Snooki. After my mother took him to the pound he wasn’t mentioned again for many years. Never with Bachi. When Leah grew up, and got her own poodle, we spoke of Snooki again. Bachi was gone by then.
For my brother, Bryan/Brian, it wasn’t tossing the checkbooks, nor was it banging on the pots and pans (though we did it on New Years Eve). It was the pawn shop. And sleeping over Saturday night when our parents went out. The sound of the grandfather clock ticking ticking ticking and bonging on the half hour once, on the hour with the number. It was spoonfuls of brandy/Port and honey when we were ill, ice cream at Vic’s around the corner when we were well, and waking up to the smells of Sunday: matzo brie and bacon, chicken soup simmering for later, a big pot of something meaty, like chickens roasting with meatballs or stuffed cabbage or lamb braised with onions. And kasha, or potatoes, with alphabets for the soup.
It was about how if i woke up in the middle of the night i would see Bachi curled up on the bottom of my bed, or on my brothers bed (later, on Leah’s bed), sleeping there with the love of being close to us. It was the closest to be cherished my brother or I ever felt in childhood.
Her name wasn’t always Bachi. Before Bachi, it was: Sophia Dubowsky. Before Dubowsky, she was Sophia Pockrass.
She got her name, Bachi, in the source of all things good to my brother and I: The pawn shop: (to be continued):