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Watch out, Bubbie, you might have competition

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It’s tough to choose which to do sometimes - kvetch or kvell! | Illustration: TheJ.ca

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For many of us who are Jewish, we are on a never-ending quest to constantly give our parents something to be able to kvell about to their friends, or the stranger in an elevator. (“I just saw my granddaughter. Do you want to see a photograph? I have one right here on my phone.”)

We definitely don’t want them to kvetch about us, or how we raise our children, because it does sting.

Even though my two bubbies passed away, more than 15 years ago, they are my moral compass. Every single day, since their deaths, there’s been a constant voice in the back of my head that asks, “would my bubbies kvell” if I did this? Or, would they “kvetch”?

Sadly, both my bubbies passed away before they even knew I was pregnant with my first child. I was engaged but unmarried, doing the “first comes love, then comes baby, then possibly comes marriage.” Normal today, but two decades ago? Not so much. When I wrote I was pregnant for National Post, more than 200 readers cancelled their subscriptions, because I was knocked up, but not married.

So, I was terrified to break the news to my 90 year-old grandfather, when I felt like the first woman to ever get pregnant before getting married, and worried my zaida wouldn’t exactly be kvelling that he’d be a great-grandfather, this way.

Would he kvetch, and nag me or my mother for this modern life choice, maybe too modern for him? (“So when are you getting married? Do you have a plan to get married? A baby should have parents who are married! Why aren’t you getting married?”)

So I did what I always do, when I’m worried someone is going to kvetch, especially people whose opinions I care about. I attempted to get someone else to pinch-hit for me.

In this case my mother, who was kvelling times ten, that she would be a bubbie for the first time. (Of course, I did wonder if my own parents would kvetch or kvell too.)

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“Can you tell Zaida I’m pregnant?” I asked my mother, who was thrilled not because she was going to become a bubbie, but I was in a relationship with a lawyer, which, to make a sweeping generalization, is like marrying a doctor, still important for so many Jewish families.

“You tell Zaida!” my mom shot back, “It’s your baby!”

That’s when it hit me, hard, that I was always worrying about my grandparents, especially my bubbies, wondering, “Would my bubbies kvell over this life-changing news? Or would they kvetch,” that I was pregnant, before marriage?

Taken when Rebecca Eckler was a feature columnist for National Post newspaper, where she broke the news to the world about her first pregnancy | Photo: Dave Gordon

My oh-so-cute 90-year old Zaida’s response to me being an unwed pregnant career woman was shocking!

He was kvelling that he’d be a great-grandfather mostly, I think, because he happened to know someone else who didn’t get married and had a baby, thus making him assume this was becoming a norm.

Kvelling and kvetching can seem almost like a competitive sport sometimes. And I love every second hearing either.

I think my parents were prouder that I had “landed” a lawyer, softening the blow of not being married, with no real plans to get married. At least they could tell her friends that I was with a really nice lawyer, though we would separate three years later, crushing my parents because they liked him so much. I only could imagine the kvetching to their friends, because divorce back then wasn’t exactly the norm either.

(I’ve never seen my parents kvell, over my books, or any other accomplishment, so much as they kvelled over the fact I had unprotected sex, drunk, thus conceiving my first born.)

Would my bubbies, and my parents, kvetch that I can’t seem to make a relationship last longer than a tin of mints? Would my bubbies understand getting divorced, twice? Would my bubbies kvetch or kvell that even in my mid-40s, I am domestically, navigationally, and relationship challenged?

My bubbies had such different personalities; one who I was closer to, traditional, and hosted weekly Friday night dinners, with much love. And she gave me a cookie for the ride home! Would she kvell or kvetch that I chose to be a career girl who wouldn’t know the first thing about making roast beef, or that I can’t put a damn duvet sheet on?

My other bubbie? She was super independent, a trait passed down to me. It wasn’t unusual for her to call and say, “I’m in Florida now,” without telling my parents, or anyone, beforehand. She, too, was a single mother who raised three boys, working to pay the bills, just like me.

She, too, had three main companions, two she did marry (both died) and a third who she spent her last decade with. Would she kvell because I was so much like her? Or would she kvetch, “learn from my mistakes!”

Part of what makes bubbies, and some Jewish adults, so awesome, is the hilariousness I find whether they are kvelling or kvetching!

Pre-pandemic I couldn’t help but listen to a table of four beautiful bubbies at United Bakery, all were kvetching about their daughters-in-laws, and how they will never pass on their jewelry to them. When my lunch date asked me something, I responded, “Shhh! I’m eavesdropping.” I wanted to pull up a chair, and ask these kvetching bubbies, if I could join!

Rebecca Eckler at the launch party in Toronto, of her most recent book, Blissfully Blended Bullshit | Photo: Courtesy

I’m both impressed and entertained by how well bubbies can kvetch and kvell, and sometimes in the same sentence.

(“This soup is too cold. Now it’s too hot. Just give me the salad instead. And, also, this fork has lipstick stains on it. What do you mean you can’t see it? Can I have what the table next to me is having?”)

I too have become very good at kvetching, and it’s not the best look: “My eyebrows are uneven! Why isn’t my daughter calling me? This apple is bruised! And that picture frame is tilted. What do you mean you can’t see it?”

But I also love to kvell (I’m kvelling big time over TheJ.ca!)

Each week in this column, I’ll be kvetching or kvelling, a Jewish tradition!

Rebecca Eckler is the internationally bestselling author of ten books, including Knocked Up, How to Raise a Boyfriend, and Blissfully Blended Bullshit. She is the Executive Editor of SavvyMom.ca

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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