Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother

Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother

4.1 19
by Barbara Graham
     
 

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“These clear-eyed essays offer humor and insight as they take on the multigenerational lives many of us now lead.”
—Cokie Roberts, author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters

 

In the New York Times bestseller Eye of My Heart, edited by Barbara Graham, 27 writers reveal the hidden pleasures and perils of being a

Overview

“These clear-eyed essays offer humor and insight as they take on the multigenerational lives many of us now lead.”
—Cokie Roberts, author of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters

 

In the New York Times bestseller Eye of My Heart, edited by Barbara Graham, 27 writers reveal the hidden pleasures and perils of being a grandmother—in essays that are honest, eye-opening, poignant, witty, and provocative. With contributions by Elizabeth Berg, Judith Guest, Mary Pipher, Judith Viorst, and a host of other acclaimed literary artists representing a wide range of voices and experiences, Eye of My Heart is a clear-eyed celebration of a grand institution and an all-important epoch in a woman’s life.

Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
“So many different perspectives and vantage points are woven seamlessly that no matter what their personal relationship to the word ‘grandmother’ is, readers will find much to make them laugh out loud—and also to break their hearts.”
People
“In illuminating, unsentimental essays, 27 writers offer up insights on the tricky art of grandmothering.”
O magazine
“Spry and unsentimental. . . . Truth telling with dollops of love.”
O Magazine
"Spry and unsentimental. . . . Truth telling with dollops of love."
People Magazine
"In illuminating, unsentimental essays, 27 writers offer up insights on the tricky art of grandmothering."
Publishers Weekly

Women who have achieved grandmotherly status will appreciate this engaging, honest volume of essays by 26 writers who articulate shared emotions about their grandchildren. All describe a new form of love different from the love they felt for their own children. Editor Graham (Women Who Run with the Poodles) calls it " a besotted state." For some contributors, grandmotherhood is a promise of genetic continuity, while others value the freedom to play and indulge. Many essays may be sentimental, but they're also insightful and candid, sometimes painfully so. Notably, one pseudonymous writer lashes out at her cruelly withholding daughter-in-law; another describes raising her mentally disturbed daughter's unstable son. Perhaps most disturbingly, Sallie Tisdale portrays a dire situation created by her financially irresponsible adopted son and his girlfriend, who keep producing more children. Yet humor abounds. In an irreverent piece, Abigail Thomas writes of fleeing a clan reunion by scheduling an appointment with her gynecologist. Judith Viorst confronts the taboo topic of jockeying for love with the other set of grandparents. All learn the lesson best expressed by Anne Roiphe: "Seal your lips." (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061720178
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/07/2009
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Eye of My Heart
27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother

Chapter One

Your Sixty-Year-Old: Friend or Foe?

Molly Giles

Annika at three knows what she likes and doesn't like, and she doesn't like me. "Oma came all the way to Amsterdam just to see you," my daughter Rachel tells her. "Isn't that exciting?" Annika freezes at the foot of the stairs. She has grown into a leggy beauty with hair so long it drifts down the small of her back. But she is still in diapers, I see, still drags a blanket, still has one of those damn binkies in her mouth.

"Hi, darling," I say.

Annika's eyes shift to Rachel.

"Oops," Rachel says to me. "I'm sorry, Mom, I forgot. You'll have to move. You're sitting on Annika's couch."

"Annika has her own couch?"

Rachel nods and gestures to a less comfortable chair. Creaking, I rise. "She likes to have her morning bottle," Rachel explains, "on her own couch."

"She still takes a bottle?" Too late to mask my disapproval, I add, "Where is it? I'll get it for her."

"Nay," says Annika. It's the Dutch "nay," brief and bestial.

"She likes me to give it to her," Rachel explains as she goes into the kitchen.

I bet she does. My eyes narrow as Annika advances head down to claim her couch. She passes me as swiftly as a little ferret, clambers onto the cushions, and stretches out, draping the blanket over her body with two expert flicks until only her ten tiny toes stick out. Her right hand darts to the table, plucks the remote control, and snaps the television on. A brightly colored cartoon from the BBC channel begins toblare. She pulls the binkie out with a pop.

"Mama," she says in a firm voice.

"Coming," Rachel calls from the kitchen.

And in bustles Rachel, my genius daughter, who speaks six languages, has a Ph.D. in genetics, writes for international science magazines, heads a cancer research lab in Utrecht, and is two and a half months pregnant with a second baby. Last night when she met my train at Schiphol, she told me she and her partner, Scott, know they "cannot improve on perfection," but perhaps this new one will be a boy. Scott appears now at the foot of the stairs, tiptoeing across the living room in his long Indonesian bathrobe. His camera is already pointed at Annika, who juts out her chin and gives him a practiced smile before she accepts the bottle of warmed milk from Rachel's hand and plunges it into her mouth.

"Where is dolphie?" Scott sings.

Eyes on the television, Annika thrusts her left hand up. Palmed inside is a small blue china dolphin. Scott snaps the picture, then turns to me and chuckles. "She won't go anywhere without her dolphie."

"Doesn't it break?"

"All the time. But Papa glues it back again, doesn't Papa?" He kneels and kisses Annika's furrowed forehead. She shoves him away. He laughs and kisses her fist. She hits him. I can't look.

"You slept with a sock monkey," I say to Rachel.

Rachel smiles. Her lovely face. All three of my daughters are beautiful, but Rachel, my second, the one who has chosen to live farthest away, has the moon face and full lips of a goddess. "I did?" Her voice is mild. She does not remember her monkey.

I do. I remember everything about Rachel at three. Her monkey, her pillow, her long reasonable sentences. At three, Rachel was toilet-trained, bottle-weaned; already using knife, fork, and cup with ease; able to tie her own shoes, read a few words, and engage strangers with grace. I turn to my granddaughter. "I brought you some presents."

"Did you hear that?" Scott exaggerates enthusiasm, his eyebrows shooting up. "Oma brought you presents all the way from California!"

Annika turns her head on the couch and studies me, the bottle protruding like a platypus snout beneath her assessing eyes.

"Shall we open them now?" Scott crouches, camera poised, ready for the "Annika Opens Presents" shot.

Annika turns back to the television.

"Aw," Scott says. "Please? Pretty please with kafir on top?" He turns to me. "She's not a morning person," he says.

Annika is not a breakfast person either. She sits on Rachel's lap at the dining room table and slowly licks salt, grain by grain, off half of one cashew as the rest of us eat cheese and fruit and sprinkle chocolate, as the Dutch do, Scott assures me, on our hot buttered toast. "Delicious," I suggest, holding out a piece, but Annika turns her head away. During the rest of that day—but who's counting—she licks the salt off the other half of the same cashew. At some point she accepts a small square yellow cracker and eats one corner. "It's funny"—Rachel laughs—"because we're vegetarians and yet Annika has never tasted a vegetable!"

"Aren't you worried she'll get scurvy?"

Rachel laughs again. Annika, bent over her cashew, drily parrots the sound, "Ha ha ha." The child is not without wit. Also, despite the lack of nutrients, she has energy. This day, the first day of my visit, she tours Amsterdam, dolphin in fist, riding Scott's shoulders as we peer into Anne Frank's house, take a barge down one of the canals, and pass through the red-light district on our way to an outdoor café. A whore in a window doing leg lifts waves to her and Annika waves back. Her laughter, when Scott is whipped into an obliging gallop, ripples like a wake of bright bubbles, and even the tall grim Dutch passing us on the sidewalk smile.

That night she agrees to open her presents. She dismisses the lilac tutu I brought ("You used to want to be a ballerina," I sigh to the amnesiac Rachel), ignores the toys and books, but seems to approve of the embroidered denim jacket from the breathtakingly expensive children's boutique in Berkeley. She lets me read to her, and the next morning she allows me to hand her the bottle. I am deeply honored and kneel for a second, as Scott did the day before, to kiss her forehead. She does not strike me.

Eye of My Heart
27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother
. Copyright (c) by Barbara Graham . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Barbara Graham is an essayist, playwright, and author who has written for Time; O, The Oprah Magazine; Glamour; More; National Geographic Traveler; and Vogue. She is a columnist for Grandparents.com and has two granddaughters.

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Eye of My Heart 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book which presents realistic essays on contemporary grandparenting by 27 well known, excellent writers. The book is also delightful reading. It is a very welcome addition to the sparse "literature" on grandparenting - not frilly suggestions about coloring doilies with the grandkids, nor bulleted, superficial "how to's." These are real stories about real people giving us insight into the "why am's & why are's" rather than the "how to" aspects of the role. For example, "Why am I confused about this role? I remember my grandmother knowing just how to play it so well."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pleasures of being a grandmother
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spot on relevant to my situation! I long to spend more time with my grandchildren but I'm the paternal grandmother who lives further than the maternal grandmother. I've been distraught wondering what I have done wrong in so many situations when I felt disapproval. It seems I'm not needed at all, when all my life I've been needed. To read this cleverly written description of the experiences of other grandmothers has been so therapeutic for me. Someone else has experienced this, it's a pattern in the lives of others, it's not just me. I'm still crazy in love with those kids but I'm beginning to accept the position of waiting to be invited into their lives by my son and his wife.
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IleanaEM More than 1 year ago
Wonderful reading material. Something to look forward as a grandmother, a different perspective as a mother. It sheds light on a mother-daughter; grandmother-grandchild relationship. It made me re-think my relationships with my own children.
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Sunseeker139 More than 1 year ago
This book was a way to look at the interaction of other women into the role of grandmother. I have eight grandchildren and could identify with the most interactive authors. My heart broke for those who were not allowed a lot of contact with their grandchildren. They are a wonderful gift to have. It is always a wonder to me that some women do not want to have an active role in their grandchildren's lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All sorts of stories with different outlooks etc. Very good.
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