(large print edition)
When my sister was thirteen or fourteen she walked through the room and Pop, mischief twinkling in his blue eyes, said “Hey, Abby, I like your bayzem.” I thought it was one of the funniest things I ever heard and seeing me laughing, he began howling too. You should have seen my sister’s face.
He later defended his innocent remark by saying that bayzem means “broom” in Yiddish. He shrugged. My grandmother confirmed that a bayzem was indeed a broom. It was nothing and nothing came of it. But it created a stir when he said it, for sure.
He liked this, he had a mischievous side that he had to keep under wraps most of the time. It was cool to play this way with the grandchildren sometimes. Sure his wife and daughter would give him some shit about it, but it was worth it. He also loved speaking bilingual non sequitars, repurposing a word or phrase in one language to make no sense or relate to anything, except for the sound, in another.
He was there when we brought Winnie home from the Brumby’s. The Brumbys were a Scottish couple who bred West Highland Terriers (picture Toto from the Wizard of Oz in white). The papers they prepared for Winnie referred to her as a West Highland Puppy Bitch. My sister and I had a lot of laughs reading that off of her papers. She was a wonderful dog, my father’s favorite, I have to think. I have a great photo of her lying on my father’s chest, his arm over her, as he naps on the couch, glasses up on his forehead.
Pop looked over to us playing with Winnie and said “Avooma Veeny!” He said this playfully, in his deep, rumbling voice, said it more than once that day. It was clearly a play on Winnie’s name and my sister and I immediately embraced it as one of several pet names for our adorable new puppy bitch.
Years later I would learn that Avooma Veeny was the Russian-Jewish pronunciation of Avraham Aveenu, our father Abraham, the first Jewish monotheist, the guy who was ready to cut his beloved son’s throat because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded him to. Avraham Aveenu, Avooma Veeny, Winnie.
“Hey, Avooma Veeny!” my grandfather would call from the kitchen table, holding out a small scrap of chicken skin on his wide fingers. Avooma Veeny would waste no time getting the treat from Pop.