Long distance relationships. With grandparents.

Written for The PJ Library July e-newsletter 

Thumbnail image for first rain.jpg

Abby was in tears. Her mother and father were in tears. And so was Grandma….There were hugs and kisses and all too soon they said their good-byes. And Grandma went home. Alone.

Thus opens First Rain, July’s PJ Library offering about a young girl who moves to Israel with her parents. After reading the first few pages about a bereft grandma, soon to be miles away from her beloved granddaughter, I sorely wanted to close the book and put it away. Forever. My mother, after all, lives four hundred miles away. Also alone. This was not my idea of a relaxing bedtime story.


But like all children, my kids will not tolerate my putting away an unfinished book. So on we went. Fortunately, after telling Abby “I wish you were staying here….Israel is so far away!” Grandma becomes a bit less, um, passive aggressive. She stops grieving and puts her energy into maintaining a close relationship with Abby, despite the many miles between them.

They begin by exchanging letters. They write emails. They talk on the phone. They send photos. Grandma mails Abby autumn leaves, and Abby sends grandma mud from the Dead Sea. When grandma arrives for a surprise visit at the end of the story, it’s as if she and Abby have never been apart.


While we don’t live in another country from my mother, a seven hour drive is a long distance, especially for young children. Bubbe can’t come to school assemblies, invite us for shabbat dinner, or help out with babysitting. Nevertheless, like Abby and her grandmother, my children have an extraordinarily close relationship with their Bubbe, much closer than some of my friends’ children have with their local grandmas and grandpas.


Thinking about this, I recently asked my mother if there was any positive side to living a few states away from her grandchildren. She laughed. “I would never choose to live so far apart,” she said. “But I do love the way our time together is always a special occasion.” When Bubbe arrives at the airport, which she has done approximately every eight weeks since they were babies, the girls run to the security line to shower her in hugs and kisses. When Bubbe is here, the girls spend the entire visit (and I do mean the entire visit) playing with her. Because she’s only here for a few days, I don’t stand in the way of her granting (almost) as many yeses as she wants – generous gifts, over the top desserts, late bedtimes, and even days off of school to be with Bubbe. And not unlike the long-distance romance my husband and I shared the year before we were married, everyone is on their very best behavior.


So, I don’t blame Abby’s grandmother for being terribly sad when her grandaughter moved to Israel. I don’t blame my mother for envying her friends whose grandchildren live around the corner, or the next town over. And I won’t blame myself for moping when my own children inevitably choose to raise their families somewhere other than where I call home. But as I’ve learned from my mother, and Abby’s grandmother, the sad and resentful feelings should be either tucked away, or reserved for the parents. The grandchildren deserve nothing but hugs, kisses and extra large ice cream sundaes.

(r) cmyk PJ Library logo with tagline and piecesThe PJ Library® program sends Jewish-content books and music on a monthly basis to families with children through age eight. Created by The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, The PJ Library is funded nationally in partnership with The Harold Grinspoon Foundation and local philanthropists/organizations.

Comments read comments(4)
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Harriet B

posted June 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

My daughter and her family, which includes my 3 darling grandchildren are moving away very soon. It is not as far as Israel, bur far enough. My heart is breaking.

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Julienne M

posted June 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm

My sons and I moved from the US last summer for Europe and it was by far
the most difficult thing we have ever done when we had to say Goodbye at the airport. I am very close to my Mother and the boys their Bubbe.
This last year has been hard not seeing her daily, but it has brought with it an increase in telephoning and emailing. Of course, not a day goes by that we don’t say, “when we go home for a visit, we can’t wait to see and be with her every minute”. That day is almost here and our pain from the separation is countered by the excitement to seeing our most beloved Mother and Bubbe.

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Judy Meltzer

posted June 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Nothing is more precious to me than my granddaughters – especially the time we spend together in person, but also the phone calls when they sing and tell a story, or ask me to tell a story, or just say, “I love you, Bubbe.” When I begin to miss them terribly, and can’t immediately get on a plane, I remind myself to be grateful that they aren’t even farther away.
Happiness is being a Bubbe.
Ella and Zoe’s Bubbe

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Allison Baumwald

posted July 13, 2010 at 2:39 pm

It helps to know that other families are dealing with living far from their moms and bubbes as well. I agree that visits are certainly extra special, but it is always hard to leave. I was crying just from reading about the book! I highly recommend skype!! It can’t replace Bubbe as baby-sitter and helper, but it’s great to see faces more often. Looking forward to the next visit from Bubbe on Friday :)

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