Bubbe and Zeyde is a poem about Michael's grandparents, from his book "Quick, Let's Get Out of Here"
Bubbe and Zeyde, my mum's mother and father.
We sometimes see them on Sunday. They live in a dark room at the end of a dark corridor, and Bubbe kisses us all when we arrive. She looks like my mum, but very silver and bent at the middle, which we’ll all look like one day, says Mum’s father. Dad always looks fed up because he doesn’t want to come, but Mum talks to them properly. Zeyde looks tired, and pretends that the half crown he's going to give me disappears into the ceiling, along with my nose if I’m not careful. “Snap!” And there’s his thumb, in his fist, and he beats me, at drafts, dominoes, snap, hare-and-hounds, and even dice. And he’s got a bottle with a boat in it. And we go for walks on Hackney Downs, which he calls “Hackney Dans”. And all the old men there say, “Hello, Frank.” And while we’re walking along, he says “What’s to become of us, Mickey? What’s to become of us?” And I don’t know what to answer. And he shows me to Uncle Heimey, who looked out of the window and said “Is that big boy your grandson, Frank?” Even though he knows my name, because that’s the way they talk. And when we get back, we eat chopped herring, or chopped liver, which is my favorite. And Bubbe tells stories that go on for hours, about people she knows who were ill, or people who’ve had to pay too much money, and at the end of the story, it always seems as if she’s being cheated. And once she took a whole afternoon to tell Mum how to make pickled cucumbers. And she kept saying, “Just add a little salt to taste, a little salt to taste. Just taste it and see if there’s enough salt. To make sure if there’s enough salt, just taste and see.” And she calls me, 'Tuttalah'. And rubs my hair and bites her lips as if I’m going to run away. And so she shakes her head and says, “Ay-ay-ay-ay-ay...”, but Zeyde goes to sleep in the old brown armchair, with his hands on the pockets of his flappy blue trousers. And when we go, Mum frowns. Zeyde holds my hand in his puffy old hand, and keeps ducking his head in little jerks, and says to us all, “Come again soon.” But I’d be afraid to go all the way on my own. It’s very dark, and the lavatory is outside, which is sometimes cold. She doesn’t like it when we go, and she kisses us all over again. And Dad walks up and down like he does at the station. And Mum keeps pushing me and poking me. And they both wave all the time we go into the distance, and I always wave back, because I think they like it. But Mum and Dad sit absolutely quiet, and nobody speaks for ages. Mum says, “Zeyde shouldn’t give me the money.”
- Bubbe is the Yiddish word for grandmother, while Zeyde is the word for grandfather.
- The word "Bubbe" is also mentioned in Michael's Big Book of Bad Things.
Usage in YTP's Edit
- The word "beat" or "beats" from the line "and he beats me" is used in a lot of YTP's (eg "sometimes my mum and dad used to beat me").