Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bailey Update: Babies, grandparents and a ‘shayna punim’

Okay, really, you have to agree that Bailey is
a "shayna Punim", right?
It’s happened and I didn’t even see it coming. I’ve become my mother.

I was holding Bailey the other day – that would be my two-week-old granddaughter – and she was mostly doing her baby thing: lots of gentle sleeping, a little wiggling and a whole lot of just being cute.
Way back in the innards of my brain, apparently the part that is attracted by the serene sense of calm that newborns manufacture, a phrase started to take shape that I couldn’t quite put into words. It circled about for a while, lingering just on the tip of my tongue when, glancing down at Bailey, it tumbled out unexpectedly.

It was the focus of a sentence that, quite possibly, might be found if you look up the word “treacle” in the dictionary.
“Such a shayna punim; yes you are, oh yes you are!”

Oy! That’s another Yiddish word that means, well, oy.
For my Yiddish-challenged readers, shayna punim means “pretty face”. But, like lots of Yiddish phrases, it’s much more than simply a couple of words tacked together. It’s more a state of being and state of mind that, truth to tell, most all grandparents – Jewish or not – find in their grandchildren.

It’s a phrase that “yiddishe mamas” have been using for centuries and my mother offered up liberally when playing with her grandchildren and announcing to the world what a bit of perfection she’d stumbled onto.
That’s the wider meaning, the stuff of life that all babies capture. After all, in a tiny package of pinkness and hair, the potential for all they will ever become is making its debut and just about the only words that seem adequate for the occasion is the overly sentimental pronouncement, shayna punim.

So I’ve become my mother, not just using the phrase, but offering it up in that rhythmic, sing-songy voice that meshuggenah bubbes have, no doubt, copyrighted – I certainly don’t recall my father using the phrase.
I’ll know that the maternal link is absolute when I start using the term pisher, but I’ll save the details on that particular word and all that it means for another time.

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