Bubby… Our Life, Our World

Bubby in Field

Bub·by: (n) \’bə-bē\  בובי  Yiddish – is a German-based Jewish dialect.  Bubby is an endearing Yiddish term for grandmother. A sweet name for the one you love, the one you adore, your Bubster, your Bubinator… your Boo!

Hair worn short and pleasantly gray, she wears large round eyeglasses that frame her face gracefully. I noticed that she was short, at least less than five feet. I felt tall standing beside her.  Her eyes were a beautiful light blue, like glass, almost see-through, as if looking directly into her soul.  As she stood there in the kitchen, surely a place where she felt most comfortable, she was introduced to me as Bubby, and Bubby is what I have called her ever since, for the past 25 years.

Anne Lydia Morin was born on Thursday, September 27, 1917, and is 100% Bohemian and is affectionately known to everyone as Bubby. People don’t ask how my mother-in- law is feeing or they don’t ask how Frank’s mother is doing. They simply ask… “How is Bubby?” There isn’t one person in any of our lives who doesn’t refer to or know her as Bubby. Just like famous people who are known just by their first names – Cher, Elvis or Oprah… so is Bubby!

The first time I met Bubby was in January 1988, shortly after Frank and I started dating. Visiting Bubby’s home, it was apparent that the kitchen was the main heart of the Morin home, where friends and family gathered around a long wooden table to have cocktails, to laugh and tell jokes, to have a great time and, of course, to eat. I enjoyed sitting around the table with Frank’s family, especially with the brothers, Eugene “Geno” and Patrick, who would tell stories throughout the night.  Geno would act out every scene, animating everything he said and, of course, with a comical tone. By the time I left to go home, my cheeks would hurt from laughing so much. Bubby would stand around, offering us her fantastic homemade mint bars or lemon bars and, of course, her delicious homemade cream of chicken rice soup. Bubby would stand at the kitchen sink, humming quietly to herself, as she washed the evening’s dishes, as her family continued to have a great time in the background. Once done with the dishes, she would walk from one end of the kitchen to the other, making sure she accommodated every person that sat around her table, as if she was Flo, a waitress, working her own counter. Making her rounds, she would ask each of us if we wanted something to drink or to eat, offering seconds and even thirds, always commenting that we never ate enough. Bubby always fed everyone, from family and friends to neighborhood bikers who hung out with the Morin boys, cooking breakfasts and dinners, making sure her guest never went hungry or unsatisfied, a tradition that she continues practicing today. I sat there and observed as her boys would tell her, “Bubby, sit down and relax, we’re fine!” only for her to continue on pleasing others.

 “My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart – a heart so large that everybody’s joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.”  ~Mark Twain

Frank told me the time when Bubby would awaken her young children out of their beds in the morning by making something they called holes, laced with powdered sugar that had “nipples” as the children liked to call them, created from being cooked in hot oil. They also enjoyed the homemade “lumps” that Bubby made, which were actually dumplings that lay across her homemade soup.

You could sense that Bubby enjoyed cooking for everyone and she made every effort to make sure that you were content while sitting in her kitchen.  Sitting around the table, watching how they interacted with Bubby, I saw a glow in each of them, cherishing their mother so, and their love was definitely apparent.

Bubby gave birth and was blessed with 17 children, 8 boys and 9 girls, having her first child at the age of 21 and having her last two, which were twins at the age of 44.

I asked Bubby not too long ago if she could name off her children for me in the order that they were born so that I could have this information for my own records.  She told me that she wasn’t able to do that at the moment because she couldn’t find her “list,” the list that she kept containing all the names of her 17 children and what order she gave birth to them in. I suppose if I were 95 years old, I would need a list, too.

Joey                          May 1938
Judy                          May 1940
Dennis                      October 1941
Bill                             December 1942
Joyce                       August 1944
Danny                      February 1946
Mike                         June 1947
Helen                       September 1948
Mary                        September 1949
Eugene “Geno”    December 1950
Patrick                    March 1952
Lucy                        October 1954
Joannie                  May 1955
Debbie                    August 1956
Paulette                 May 1958
Frank                      January 1961
Frannie                  January 1961

R.I.P. Dennis & Geno

R.I.P. Dennis & Geno

Bubby, who is a spiritual and devout catholic, was pleased and very proud when her eldest son, Joey, decided to become a catholic priest. Devoted to his faith and family, he has practically blessed, married, and baptized us all, myself included. The sacrament I was taking became more of a special blessing, not only because I was being baptized in God’s name, but also because my brother-in-law was sharing this honor with me and it was my privilege to be baptized by Joey’s hands. Bubby always shared religion and spirituality with her children, bringing the love of God into her home. As the children got older, they were independent enough to go to church on their own.  Most of the time, they did make it to church however, on rare occasions, when the day felt just right, they steered their way and went to McDonalds for the one-hour instead.   Realizing that they would need to show proof that they attended mass, one of them would run inside the church, grabbing a Sunday bulletin to show Bubby that, suuuuuuure… they all went to mass that morning. Bubby would also give each of the children ten cents in a small envelope for church, only for them to head to the local candy story beforehand to buy five cents worth of candy, then placing the leftover five cents into the envelope for the church’s collection plate. As the Morin children had their share of innocent secrets amongst themselves when they were younger, they always knew that they could go to Bubby to confess, even sharing some of their own private secrets with her, as she held each one personally in her own heart.

Morin Clan - 1961Picture used in neighborhood newspaper.

Morin Clan – 1961
Picture used in neighborhood newspaper.

1961 Newspaper article announcing the Twins!

1961 Newspaper article announcing the Twins!

It’s without question that Bubby’s home was always full of life and the activity level was surely at its highest, with always having a toddler pulling on her apron strings, wanting attention, asking for this or that or with the children running in and out of the house from their outdoor adventures, or even having friends over doing activities. At the time, the father, Joseph, was a truck driver for Burny Brothers Bakery and always working long hours, often times working seven days a week, which left Bubby to tend to the children and household chores.  Surely, Bubby had her hands full, as she cooked, cleaned, taking care of her home and her children, always making sure that she shared her attention with each of them in her own special way. Bubby’s patience while raising her children, especially through the teenage years, must have been on the same level as Sainthood. Surely, we have all on occasion, became irritated when times were difficult, making our lives more challenging, only to leave us frustrated, angry and losing our patience. I for one am guilty of such behavior. However, throughout the years of knowing and spending time with Bubby, I have never once seen her give in to impatience, only the contrary. Bubby has a calmness and gentleness about her. Her temperament is soothing, comforting and almost addicting, as she carries tranquility within her. A mother would need all of these aspects while raising teenagers who were entering into adulthood, especially children that were taught to be free spirits and be their own person, like the Morin children. Surely, small troubles were at hand on a daily basis, but Bubby seemed to have always kept her composure and was in control when dealing with everyday events that, perhaps, could have lead to bigger troubles. Frank confessed that Bubby never had an unkind bone in her body while growing up, never serving up punishment nor did the children see the backside of her hand. She simply had patience.

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.  A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” ~Sophia Loren

It was apparent that Bubby accepted every child of hers as individual characters, as they all had their own distinct personality, as if they were their own unique masterpieces, admiring each one of them in her own special way. She taught them how to have their own patience, to learn from their mistakes, show and extend respect but, most importantly, how to be happy, to laugh at life, and to love yourself as well as others.

Bubby

Bubby

As the children grew older and were now of legal age, they would head down to Clark Street, where they would watch their brother-in-law, George, and his reggae band, the Skanking Lizards, play all night at the Wild Hare, jamming set after set. Even though Bubby was well into her sixties, she would also attend with them, having a few cocktails while dancing to a few reggae songs with her children, as George played his solo in front of them. How enjoyable it must be to see your own mother partaking in the fun right along with you, sharing your joy, sharing your experiences.

Soon the Morin children were having babies of their own, blessing Bubby with many, many grandchildren, as well as great grandchildren. Watching the grandchildren around Bubby, it’s apparent that they simply adore her, always looking forward to each visit that they have with her. If Bubby isn’t giving them candy, pop or cookies to fill their bellies, then she’s giving them her pennies that she’s collected, handing them over in a plastic zip lock sandwich bag. The grandkids enjoy watching her daily soap operas with her, while Bubby would share her mint meltaways with them, politely taking just one, only for Bubby to tell them to take another, one for each hand. It makes me happy to know that Arlaraye and Tanner have a special connection with their grandmother as I did mine.

While being pregnant for the second time, and because Bubby was of Bohemian descent, I asked her to give me a nice rich Bohemian boys name so that if I had a boy, I could name him something authentic, traditional… like I did for Arlaraye. Arla is a Norwegian name, which I named her for my grandfather. Because my grandfather was Norwegian and always liked the name Arlaraye, he asked my mother when she was pregnant with me back in 1962 to name me Arla, but my mother said absolutely not. She just didn’t like the name. My mother didn’t follow tradition, naming me after a family member or someone important in her life, instead, she named me after a toy, her favorite doll that she had when she was a young girl, which she called Jackie. Therefore, years before my grandfather had passed away, I said to him, “Grandpa, if I ever have a daughter one day, I will name her Arlaraye… for you!”  I personally loved the name and knew that one day my child would be called Arlaraye.  As promised, I had a daughter and did just that. Grandpa’s name was spelled Ray and mine is spelled Rae, so I decided to combine our names, creating a unique bond between our names, and us, and this is how Arlaraye was named.  Sadly, though, grandpa had died years before he ever learned that I had a daughter that I named Arlaraye.  Being my sentimental self, I wanted to do the same thing with a boy’s name, but reflecting on Frank’s nationality and this is why I asked Bubby for a Bohemian name. Asking Bubby again for a name, she soon shared with me the name, Tanner. Sounding it out several times, I rather liked it. It sounded strong and genuine. Surprisingly, I had a boy and it was confirmed that our new baby son was going to be named Tanner Joseph… Joseph after Frank’s father, as well as his brother, Joey.  It was shortly after giving birth to Tanner that we were all over at Bubby’s house having a visit, showing off the baby Morin who was going to carry on the family name. The subject of Tanner’s name came up, feeling proud of the fact that his name was a traditional Bohemian name; as Hanz Christen is to German or Shaun O’Malley is to Irish, and Tanner was to Bohemian. It was at that point that Bubby turned to us and commented that Tanner wasn’t a Bohemian name. Being somewhat surprised, I asked her, “I thought Tanner was a traditional Bohemian name because that’s what I had asked you for; a Bohemian name from your side of the family?”  Nonchalantly, she looked at us and she said, “Nooooooo, Tanner’s not a Bohemian name, Tanner is one of the men from my stories that I watch every day. His name is Tanner and I always liked the name and he was good looking, therefore, I told you Tanner!”  It was at that point that we just started laughing.  Here we thought that our son carried on a traditional name only to find out that, yes, our sweet little Bubby named my son after a hot sexy soap opera character.

As noted, Bubby is always making a joke or a wisecrack comment, leaving us never knowing if she’s serious or if she’s joking… until she cracks a smile. Bubby has a great sense of humor, dry and quick wit that always keeps us laughing and smiling ourselves. She’s always contributing to the laughter that’s around her, as well as being involved within her children’s lives, whether it was bar hopping in her 60’s and 70’s, coming to my Halloween parties completely dressed in full costume or simply riding in Eugene’s side car of his motorcycle while he took her to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk. Yes, Bubby does it all!

Bubby at Jack's Halloween Party as Minnie Pearl.

Bubby at Jack’s Halloween Party as Minnie Pearl.

Bubby taking a ride in Geno's Sidecar. She needed milk!

Bubby taking a ride in Geno’s Sidecar. She needed milk!

Bubby also enjoyed her traveling, where she was either vacationing in California or Colorado, even jetting off to Hawaii and, years later, to Thailand. I’ll never forget the time she got on a plane not for pleasure, but to rescue me from a Florida Hospital after Frank and my motorcycle accident. Picking me up in Florida, she pushed me in a wheelchair through the airport, while carrying my belongings over her shoulder, bringing me back home to Chicago. Because I couldn’t go back to my apartment, I had to live with Bubby until I was admitted to the hospital. There, she fed me, always making sure I was comfortable, making sure I never went without. This was just another kind act from Bubby; doing something for someone who hasn’t yet become a family member, someone who had just met me less than a year before.  This is what I call complete sacrifice for another human being and it is my hope that I can extend the same kind of empathy to someone else one day.

Because Bubby was so involved in peoples’ lives, her children’s’ lives, perhaps, this is why everyone cherishes every part of her being.  I have never witnessed such a dedicated, unselfish act of love and respect for anyone before like I do when I see the Morin children around their mother. Family can never do enough for Bubby, always making sure she’s content, never having her to ask for anything. Family members gather around her, each of them taking their turn sitting beside her, creating their own personal conversation, as if they are the only ones in the room, surely creating special memories of their own. I watch as family and friends walk up to Bubby, asking if they can do anything for her, as it’s now their turn to accommodate her. With open hearts, they are more than happy to please. With every family gathering that we have that includes Bubby, it’s only another opportunity for us all to feel blessed that she’s still with us, celebrating life right along with her family, who loves her so deeply.

Frank and Bubby having their own special chat.

Frank and Bubby having their own special chat.

Even though playing hooky from church or tapping into the collection plate for some sweet treats, it was apparent that it was all in innocence, as young children will often do.  There was no harm and it didn’t deter the Morin children from having a love for their God. I admire that a mother can instill in her family the importance of having God in their lives, something that was never introduced in mine while growing up.  I have been to church with the family many times within the past 25 years of knowing them and the love that they have for their God shines unconditionally. Bubby should be very proud.

Listening to the fond stories that are told around me from the brothers and sisters are truly priceless and with Bubby having over 75 family members that include children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, there are many memoirs being created and all these memories stemming from one individual is nothing short of a miracle. “Bubby Times” are precious and there is no better gift than a beautiful memory.

Bubby with Baby

Bubby – Circa 1938

Loving unconditionally was surely Bubby’s true intentions, but pleasing others was sure a close second.  Watching her, I have learned to love just as much. Bubby extends compassion, inner strength and unconditional love, which only inspires us all.  We can only hope that the morals and values that Bubby has instilled in her children, her family, to all those whom she has touched, will only encourage us to carry on the tradition of loving opening and honestly within our own children and future generations to come. Bubby truly is a reflection of all that is good. Not only is she lovable and charming, she’s also very sentimental, only having me realize where Frank gets his sentiment from.  I admire Bubby’s love that she has for each of her children; it’s truly inspiring how much love she carries in her heart.

I highly encourage everyone to talk with their family members, that special someone you always wanted to get to know, what their opinions are, who their first love was, when was their first kiss, asking questions, pry, inquire and learn about your family history, every personal moment and detail that you ever wanted to know about and document, document, document! This is something that I regret so very much. I would love to have a second chance to ask my mother, grandmother and grandfather questions on how they met, when did they fall in love…   Because the moment their voice becomes silent, so will your family history.

“I wish my mother had left me something about how she felt growing up.  I wish my grandmother had done the same. I wanted my girls to know me.” ~ Carol Burnett

Sunshine

The love that exuberates from the family for this one particular woman, Bubby, can light up a sunless sky from all directions.  I have always pictured Bubby as a vast ball of sunshine that illuminates unconditional love, while her family is the bright rays of light that extends from her, all around her, radiating that same love directly into the universe for all to feel and experience and, all of this because of one human being who has graciously taught us how to laugh, love and live life to the fullest. Yes, Bubby is our world, our Saint, our everything.

Bubby

Bubby

“Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us,

we see the past, present and future.” ~Gail Lumet Buckley

 

 

 

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