Bubbie’s Bananas – Ann Stolinsky

I picked up a mass of ripe yellow bananas, pulled some off, and put the remaining bunch of three into my shopping cart. I looked again at the list Bubbie had given me to see if I missed anything.

The hair on my arms stood up. I had an odd feeling, like someone’s gaze was piercing me. I put the list in the cart and raised my head. A small boy, about six or seven years old, stared at me. I smiled and turned away. I overheard an elderly man and the boy talking.

“Why don’t you buy these bananas, Grandpop? They look good. They’re a pretty color.”

The man smiled, tousled the little boy’s brown hair.

“Old people don’t buy green bananas,” he said.

My head jerked up involuntarily as I took in his comments. A shiver started at my head and ended at my feet. I knew right away what he meant, that an older person might not have a tomorrow.

I glanced at the list my 89-year-old grandmother had given me. Yellow bananas. Bubbie specified yellow bananas.

The grandfather noticed my startled look, and he smiled.

I pushed my shopping cart and headed for the self-checkout. Bubbie’s list had been short, she only needed a few things this trip, she’d told me. Holding back sobs, I aimed for the exit.


I easily carried the two plastic shopping bags up the steps. A green and blue striped spider, trapped in a multicolored wreath, greeted me. Its plastic eyes bulged out of its face.

I laughed out loud. Oh Bubbie, it’s not even Labor Day. Why are you putting up a Hallowe’en wreath?

I knocked on the door, still chuckling to myself. I heard her say, “come in.”

I put the grocery bags on the kitchen table and unpacked them. The milk into the refrigerator, the bread in the pantry, the bananas on the table.

“Bubbie, everything’s unpacked. Why did you put the Hallowe’en wreath on the door?”

“It’s almost time for the little ghosts and goblins to come by. Did you get candy?”

“No, it wasn’t on the list. I’ll get it next week.”

I hugged my grandmother, tighter than when I had left the house to go shopping.

“See you next week.”


I wandered around the supermarket a bit longer this week than I had last week. My cupboards were bare, so I figured I’d pick up some groceries for me, in addition to Bubbie’s stuff. Nothing perishable. It would go bad by the time I got home.

Her list was the same as last week. Milk, bread, yellow bananas. And a few other sundries. She’d forgotten to add candy. I picked up a bag anyway, Kit Kat bars, her favorite.

“She’s not eating right,” I mumbled.

Movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention as I neared the produce and fruits. A small boy, the same one I saw last week. I raised my eyes to see his grandfather with him again; this time he stared at me.

I sighed.

“Hello, again,” I said.

“You seemed disturbed by what I said last week. Mind if I ask why?”

I blushed. “My grandmother is 89 years old. I go food shopping for her. She just can’t do it anymore. Last week, I realized she always writes yellow bananas. I never gave it a second thought until I heard you speak about the elderly and green bananas.” I gazed at my cart. “Your grandson is adorable. How old is he?” I had to change the subject.

“He’s five. He’s in kindergarten half a day. His dad works all day, so I pick him up. He runs errands with me. Keeps me on my toes.”

“Grandpop, don’t talk about me.” The little boy turned away, blushing.


Last week’s Hallowe’en wreath was replaced by a patriotic Fourth of July wreath of red, white, and blue. I laughed so hard, Bubbie came to the door to see what was wrong.

“Bubbie, you had a Hallowe’en wreath when I left.”

“I know, but I changed it. What, I shouldn’t be patriotic for my adopted homeland?”

I shook my head. “Of course.”

I followed her into the kitchen.

“I bought a few things that weren’t on your list. Would you like me to cook dinner for you? If you’d like, I can stay and eat with you …”

Her eyes shone. “I’d like that very much.”

My parents died when I was 13, just two weeks after my Bat Mitzvah. Bubbie is my father’s mother. My mom’s family was gone by the time she married. Bubbie took me in and loved and cared for me. She listened when I screamed and held me when I cried. She’s my everything.

“Bubbie, tell me again about Kiev.”


My father and his siblings were born in Kiev. He was the eldest, with a brother three years younger, and a sister three years younger again.

I’ve heard several stories over the years about their life in Kiev before they emigrated to the U.S.

My father’s father and his nephew were close in age. They were carpenters. Family legend claimed they spent their days working for the Tsar. One day, someone, not sure if it was a person from my family or just some other worker, stole an apple from the Tsar’s tree. The Tsar’s men threatened to kill my whole family because of that one apple. I can laugh about it, one-bad-apple jokes, because I wasn’t staring at a knife aimed at my throat. I don’t remember if someone confessed, someone outside of my family, but I do know they were enormously relieved when they were informed they would be allowed to live.


Bubbie embellished the story each time she told it. The last time she recited the tale, it was a ruby Red Delicious apple, with a worm sticking out. I never told her that I looked up the dates and the last Tsar would have been dead years before my father’s father could have worked for him. I’m sure every family has stories like this.

When my father’s father died, my father was ten. None of the children were allowed to attend the funeral. In those days, the coffin was transported by horse and cart to the cemetery. My father ran after the cart, climbed in, and clung to his mother. My Bubbie couldn’t send him back.

When the attacks grew in number and intensity, and fear became a daily companion, my Bubbie walked across Russia with her children to a boat that brought them to America. They weren’t permitted to enter because of the quota system in place. They were diverted to Cuba, where they stayed for several years.

My Bubbie went through so much in her life, so much heartache and pain. When my parents died, she could have just folded up and withdrawn from life. But she didn’t. She drew on her incredible strength. She took me in and did the best she could.


Meeting in the produce section of the supermarket became a weekly event. I learned the old man’s name is Robert. I learned the little boy’s name is Robert too. I learned his father is a single dad, but not his name. Robert the younger’s mother passed away a year ago, a month after the elder Robert’s wife died.

The supermarket is huge, one that has a café and sells wine and beer. It’s tough not to get lost in its enormity.

One day, after picking up Bubbie’s list, I stopped in the café for a bite to eat.

Robert – the elder Robert – caught sight of me and ambled over with younger Robert in tow.

“Well, hello Jane, fancy meeting you here.”

“Old timers’ humor, Robert. But funny.” I smiled at them both. “Want to join me?”

We sat and laughed, the younger Robert opens up and smiles more.


Two weeks later, I miss my weekly visit with Robert and Robert because of Bubbie’s funeral. The following Friday, after shiva was finished, I go food shopping. I instinctively drive to the supermarket closest to Bubbie’s house. It is like my heart and my car are on automatic pilot.

Little Robert is there with his grandfather. I sniff as I greet them. Robert Senior expresses his sympathy.

He picks up a bunch of yellow bananas, handing them to me with his eyes misty.

“Here, the best of the bunch. To honor your Bubbie.”

I swallowed my tears, almost unable to continue shopping.


I got home and put my groceries on the countertop. Then I collapsed onto the floor. I hope this gets easier, Bubbie, because it sure is difficult now.

When I can, I stand up, empty the bags, and start putting my food away. I almost throw out the bananas.

Best of the bunch, huh. Why’d I listen to Robert? These bananas are brown now. I picked them up to throw them in the trash can when I noticed the brown spots were in a pattern. There were letters on them! I collapse, this time clutching the bananas to my chest. Written on one banana were the words, “Ya tebya lyublyu.” The only Russian words my father and Bubbie had taught me.

I love you.”


Ann has been published in Klarissa Dreams Redux, a charity anthology which has been selected to go to the moon in a time capsule with an organization called Writers on the Moon (https://www.writersonthemoon.com/how-it-works), Night to Dawn magazine, and Trees. She placed third in The Write Stuff conference’s short fiction category in 2023. She is a partner in Gemini Wordsmiths LLC, an editing company. www.geminiwordsmiths.com, and Celestial Echo Press, a micro-imprint.

2 thoughts on “Bubbie’s Bananas – Ann Stolinsky

  1. Heidi Selig

    I cried. I want you to meet my friend Dina Meyer Toyoda, a Russian American writer whose work I think you’ll like.


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