Bubbe was a complicated woman. She could be hard and mean and then later in her life, delusional and psychotic. But in between her moments of believing that there were french people invading, piles of glass and wrecked cars in her apartment, and that she was being forced to live in an igloo, she would pull me aside and tell me that she liked that I was a “gutsy gal” and was proud of me. When she said something nice to me, it always floored me, because I knew that wasn’t her comfortable mode of communication. In her later years, she spoke a lot about how her two older sisters would exclude her and whisper behind her back. She always wanted to be a part of those secret communications, so she recreated them later. All of her feelings about a person, especially the good ones, would be conveyed behind someone’s back.
I think she prized independence and women being able to take care of themselves and make it on their own (except, of course, if they were married to her son.) I wonder if I didn’t take enough time with her to marvel in her professional accomplishments, being a girl during the depression, graduating college, going on to graduate school (unmarried and in a different city!) and then working as a social worker with the DC Department of Social Services. I was always charmed and a little dismayed by Bubbe’s story about how she was dating a Reform rabbi at the same time as Zayde and then Zayde kind of tricked her into marrying him, with the help of her parents. But maybe what she was really proclaiming with that story was her independence and freedom of choice. She wasn’t defined by Zayde or her father and she was so special that they needed to use every trick to tie her down. Or maybe it was just another bitter bubbe story casting herself as the heroine.
Rebecca Katz is your very average white, Jewish, twenty something year old who grew up in Brooklyn and likes to talk about oppression, privilege, television, and her vagina. When she isn’t talking with college students about privilege and oppression in Austin, she is working on a longer comic loosely based on her childhood babysitter. You can find more of her comics at katzcomics.tumblr.com.