A while back, I read what I thought was the most heartwarming and memorable LifeTakes on this back page.

The writer wrote of her Hungarian grandmother and her friends: the smells of their baking, the singsong of their voices. I have no Hungarian blood, but I was overcome with tears by the end of the piece, visualizing these bubbies and their dwindling world.

Although every zeidy on today’s children’s CDs still sounds Eastern European, the fact is that most of those zeidies are gone by now, having been replaced by the next generation of American zeidies who no longer speak English with heavy accents or sip tea through sugar cubes. Today’s zeidies drive leased cars, travel, play ball, eat sushi, and go to the gym.

Their female counterparts (unlike their own mothers, who at age 60 wore short “bubby sheitels” and housecoats, and stirred compote at the stove) wear chic custom sheitels, meet friends for iced coffee, and go power walking with their iPods at 6:30 a.m. Prune compote and tzimmes? No, thank you… just arugula and quinoa.

Gone is the old bubby-zeidy stereotype, and with it an entire generation of old-timers from a different world.

Like those in Kissena Jewish Center.

I hadn’t thought about Kissena Jewish Center in years, until I passed the potpourri in Walmart last week. I stopped to choose an air freshener, and as I sniffed inside the cap of one tall can, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of Kissena Jewish Center. It was so strong, I had to steady myself on my shopping cart to regain my bearings.

Kissena Jewish Center was the shul where my grandfather served as rabbi for almost three decades. Although he was a grandfather many times over, we used to tease him that he brought down the average age by 15 years.

The mispallelim were grandpas with checkered caps who called little boys “sonny” and older men “fellas.” Those men looked so, so old, yet in hindsight they must have been in their sixties. Kiddush consisted of pickled Vita herring from jars, fat egg kichel, and awfully dry sponge cake. They came, rain or shine, and sat in utter silence through the rabbi’s sermon.

We loved walking into shul with Bubby, where the women fawned over us like we were celebrities. “That one looks just like her mother!” and “You look just like Grandma!” were standards. Being the center of attention was awkward, but I realize now that these women hardly ever saw children; their own grandchildren were too busy with debate teams and tennis to make the drive down from Scarsdale very often.

When Zeidy got up to speak, we’d quietly scoot out of the main sanctuary through the massive doors and meet our brothers in the lobby. That’s when the fun began. Races down the shiny waxed hallway floor, exploring the dusty study for lost old treasures, or simply playing hide-and-seek, then back inside for Mussaf.

I’d forgotten all about this until I stood in that aisle at Walmart. I never realized how that shul had such an overpowering, distinct smell until I smelled it again 30 years later. In a flash, there I was, lost in the memories of old men and women, of standing next to Bubby saying Shemoneh Esreh, drinking room-temperature generic ginger ale, hearing Zeidy’s strong, clear voice singing Bircas Hachodesh. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 546)