Bye, bye, bubby, goodbye
Not much in life makes me happier than my 3:15 p.m. ritual.
It’s nothing fancy, just an after-school coffee for me, cookies and milk for Elizabeth, and a little bit of family bonding. So most days after school we make a beeline for our house. We do not run errands, do not pass go and do not collect 200 dollars. To tell the truth, we can’t get there fast enough. We retreat to the comfort of our little home sweet home, greet the pets, put on comfy clothes and have “coffee talk” in the kitchen.
Little did I know when I greeted my 6-year-old in the hallway at school last week that things were about to change. She held my hand in the parking lot, and hopped into the car, just like always. She slung her backpack into the seat beside her, buckled up and filled me in on all the news of the day. She told me whether recess was indoors or out, whether she’d eaten all of her lunch, and, most importantly, what she had for “specials,” i.e. art, music or gym.
But today things were about to take a turn for the tragic, at least for me.
Truly, in hindsight, I should have seen it coming. The first hint of foreshadowing came when instead of a cookie, Elizabeth asked for Sun Chips. I obliged, oblivious to what was to happen next.
“And I assume you want a bubby warm?” I asked cheerfully, reaching for a small mug on the pantry shelf. The bubby warm is simply half a cup of milk, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave. It has been her drink of choice morning, noon and night for years. And yes, maybe it is a tad bit ridiculous to still be warming my daughter’s milk when she is long out of diapers. But if I’m going to enjoy a nice hot coffee, why should she be deprived of a comforting bubby warm?
That’s when it happened, the moment I’d been dreading. Like all shocking and life-altering news, it came out of nowhere.
“Mom, I think it’s kind of babyish to call it that,” my first-grader said. “I think we should call it something else.”
I froze, milk carton in hand, and let the full weight of what she had just said roll over me. I turned to steal a sideways glance. Lizzie was casually licking orange cheese powder from her fingertips. She was oblivious, but I’d been blindsided. There it was. She’d finally said it. Out loud. There was no denying it. No turning back. It was over.
Putting the mug into the microwave, I pushed the numbers robotically as my mind raced. No more bubby warms. It was the end of an era. But surely I had known this day would come. What did I think would happen? That she would come home from college, pull up a chair and still be requesting a bubby warm from her dear old mom?
Still, I was sad. And nostalgic. While I watched the numbers count down on the microwave, the highlight reel started to play in my head. I recalled giving my infant daughter her bottle, which we immediately dubbed “the bubby.” She quickly moved on to two-handled cups with spouts, followed by colorful sippy cups with spill-proof valves. Our kitchen sink and sideboard got overtaken with these pastel-colored plastic cups, along with their lids and the valves that we dutifully washed, dried and reassembled countless times each day.
For years my husband and I had warmed her milk in a mug then poured it into the bottles, cups and sippies, always calling them “bubby warms.” When she got older and could talk, she sometimes would get specific and ask for a “Warm bubby, warm,” while other times she preferred a “Cold bubby, cold.” (Maybe it was a seasonal thing.) It was so cute it hurt.
We got so accustomed to the term that one night we went to Moody’s Diner and from her high chair, Elizabeth ordered one blueberry pancake and a bubby warm. My husband and I never thought anything of it. We never even commented on it or explained anything to the waitress. Instead, we ordered our meals, and our server scribbled it all down and left the table. Moments later, she returned with a tray and said, “Two coffees, and is THIS a bubby warm?” She held up a child-sized cup with a lid and a straw and offered it to our girl.
“What’s in it?” I asked, quickly realizing our mistake.
“Warm milk?” she said. Her answer was a question, and she cringed as she waited for our response.
Those Moody’s waitresses are good. We laughed and cheered and marveled at her ability to figure it out, then apologized for being such flakes.
Eventually Elizabeth graduated from a sippy cup to a real mug. She has her own collection of small coffee cups with ponies and princesses on them, all specifically for her bubby warms. Heck, at one point she even started microwaving her own milk. Surely that was a sign that she was growing up and the bubby warm might soon be a thing of the past.
But why now? Why today? I wasn’t ready. Gimme another week. A month. A few more years. C’mon, now? Really?
The microwave beeped and ended my reverie. The last bubby warm was ready. Snapped back into reality, I took the cup out and turned to face my little nemesis.
“Here you go,” I said, putting it down on the table in front of her.
She accepted it eagerly, as she always did. Wrapping both hands around the mug, just like I do with my coffee, she drank the milk with gusto then wiped her mouth.
“Soooo,” I ventured. “What do you think we should call it now?”
She thought for a long moment, frowning as she looked into her now-empty cup.
“Ummmmm,” she replied, then brightened. “I know! What about a warm bubby?”
And the beat goes on.
Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.