A Grandmother By Any Other Name…

Choosing your grandma name can be an unexpected adventure.

A Grandmother by Any Other Name…
Courtesy of Carol Pickle

Just a little over five years ago, I got the news that most women of my age (at least those with married children) are excitingly awaiting: “You’re going to be a grandmother!”

Of course, we all feel we’re much too young to be grandmothers, but we’ve also heard that this is our reward for getting older. We get to enjoy having babies and toddlers around without having to do the work. We get to play, teach, and spoil them while letting their parents discipline and settle them down after the playing and spoiling ends. Seems pretty perfect.

So after all the congratulations and dispensing of sage advice (both wanted and unwanted), I settled down to wait through those long nine months. (It was actually longer for us, as our grandson chose to hang out inside the womb for an extra two weeks past his due date, just like his mom did all those years ago.) During those months, you can’t help but imagine all the things your grandchild will be. What will he look like? Will he be artsy like his mom or an athlete like his dad? Or perhaps an artsy athlete? You think about all of the wisdom you’ll tell him and the places you’ll take him.

And then someone asked me a question I hadn’t really thought about: “What do you want to be called?” What do I want to be called? That truly hadn’t even crossed my mind. When I grew up, you called your aunts and uncles Aunt A and Uncle B, and your grandparents were Grandma and Grandpa. Even if you had two sets, like I was lucky to grow up with, you called them Grandma and Grandpa when you were with them and Grandma Pickle or Grandma Nunes when you were referring to them. It was the same with my kids. No problem, simple and easy. Of course, I thought I would do the same. And then my husband complicated matters.

He decided that he didn’t want to be called Grandpa. He wanted a more hip, modern name. He settled on Poppy, which he thought would fit him just fine. Poppy? Okay, Poppy it is. I was fine with him being called Poppy and me Grandma until one of my kids suggested that if he was Poppy, shouldn’t I be Moppy? Hold your horses now. There was no way I was going to be known as Moppy. It was clearly time to take matters into my own hands.

I started by asking my friends with grandchildren what they were called. I soon realized that I was very old-fashioned in my thinking. Most were called something different than just plain Grandma. There was Gammy, Mimi, and Gigi. Lala and Ama. So maybe I did need to come up with something a bit fresher.

I considered something to honor my heritage: Avὀ/Vovὀ for my Portuguese roots or Mhamὀ for my Irish roots. Ah…not really for me. The Portuguese sounded like a car name, and the Irish, well, I wasn’t really sure how to pronounce that one. If only I was Italian (Nonna) or Filipino (Lola). Or how about the French with Grand-mére? Maybe a bit too regal for me. Or I could be very popular with my future Star Wars- loving grandkids if I used the Japanese term for Grandma: Oba-Chan. I could just see me wielding that purple light saber…

Okay, ethnic heritage may not work. How about drawing inspiration from geography? My dad was from Mississippi, surely they have some fun names I could use. I did some searching and came upon Mawmaw, Memaw, Lolly, Bunny, Queenie, Lovey, Gaga (I think that may be trademarked), Big Momma, and Sassy. I considered Sassy — it kind of fit, but also didn’t seem like something I wanted to live with.

Being a lifelong Californian, where just about anything and everything goes, I googled grandma names and got a huge assortment. It seems everyone is looking to go trendy rather than traditional. Some were all right: Bebe, Coco, Gogo, May May, Pippy, Kitty, Nana, Yayo or Apa all seemed relatively normal. But who in the world would want to be called G-Bomb, Mummers, NotherMother, Grammers, G-Ma or my favorites, Grandiose and Geezer Girl. I would rather be called Moppy then Geezer Girl for sure, and that’s saying a lot!

By that point, my head was spinning. How in the world was I going to pick out the perfect grandmother name that fit me just right? What if I made a mistake? I began to curse my husband, aka “Poppy.” How dare he make me stray from my traditional life? Meanwhile, my daughter’s baby bump had become a basketball and my first grandson, Callum, was about to be born. He already had a name, but I was still stuck. Time to regroup.

I decided to pull out old pictures of my own childhood and my early days as a mother. I had the fortune of having a wonderful family. My paternal grandmother, Grandma Pickle, lived with us when I was young. She slept with me in my bed and shared my closet. She would chastise me when I fidgeted too much before going to sleep, and she always had my back when I ordered a big meal and only ate like a bird. We would watch her “story” (As the World Turns) at noon every day. We spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents too. They owned a bar and I loved their ice machine (it gave out those little cubes that were perfect to chew on). My Grandpa Nunes shared my love of black licorice and my Grandma Nunes loved to play Pokerino at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Of course there are lots of other things I remember, but it’s always the little things that are near and dear.

I looked at the pictures of my kids with their grandparents. So many fun family events and vacations. My dad in the play tent with them or my mom having tea, trying to fit in the tiny chair. My kids would spend a couple of weeks at their grandparents’ house near the beach every summer. And that’s when it hit me: It doesn’t matter what you’re called just as long as you are there for them. I could be called Moonbeam and the memories would be the same. So I made my decision then and there. To honor the love I have for my long-gone grandparents, I would be known as Grandma. As boring as it sounded, it was the name that worked for me.

I thought I had made my decision and that was the end of things. But what’s that saying about God laughing every time you make a plan? Grandma worked out just fine for the first two years of Cal’s life. Then my son and daughter-in-law welcomed my second grandchild, another boy. Mac came in to a family that was heavy on Grandmas (full and step), so there was a jockeying for names. I was still content to go by Grandma, but Mac had other ideas. I tried to get him to say Grandma Pickle or Grandma P, but Mac decided that my name should be “P.” Just plain “P.”

At first I wasn’t sure what I thought about my new nickname. Could I rock the single moniker like Cher, Madonna, Adele or Beyoncé? At least they got full first names, I was down to just one letter. But the more he called me “P,” the more I liked it. And when Cal warmed to calling me “P” as well, it became official.

Funny how one little turn can fill you heart with joy and make you think you were born to be “P.” Poppy and P are now proud grandparents to four grandchildren so far and are enjoying them as much as possible. They really are a great gift for getting old! My advice for anyone struggling to determine their perfect grandparent name? Go with your gut, and don’t be afraid to let your grandkids take the lead. They might just know best.

A Grandmother by Any Other Name…
Courtesy of Carol Pickle

Carol Pickle is enjoying her early 60s playing with her four grandchildren, volunteering, and taste-testing craft beer. She loves detective shows, old and new, and her kids call her Carolumbo.