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

by Barbara Graham


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In Eye of My Heart, twenty-seven smart, gutsy writers explode myths and stereotypes and tell the whole crazy, complicated truth about being a grandmother in today's world. Among the contributors:

Anne Roiphe learns—the hard way—to keep her mouth shut and her opinions to herself.

Elizabeth Berg marvels at witnessing her child give birth to her child.

Beverly Donofrio makes amends for her shortcomings as a teenage mother.

Judith Viorst exposes the high-stakes competition for Most Fabulous Grandchild.

Jill Nelson grapples with mother-daughter tensions triggered by the birth of her grandson.

Judith Guest confesses her failed attempt to emulate her own saintly grandmother.

Bharati Mukherjee transcends her strict Hindu upbringing to embrace her adopted Chinese grand-daughters.

Lynn Lauber finds joy in grandmotherhood that she missed out on as a mother.

Sallie Tisdale pays a high price—financially and emotionally—for her fast-growing brood of grandkids.

Ellen Gilchrist reveals how grandparenthood has eased her fear of death.

Molly Giles is spurned by her toddler granddaughter during a trip to Paris.

Susan Shreve finally accepts that she's the grandmother, not the mother.

Roxana Robinson realizes, with relief, that she doesn't have to worry so much anymore.

Abigail Thomas plots her escape when she can't bear to bake one more cake.

Letty Cottin Pogrebin longs to leave a lasting impression on her grandchildren.

Mary Pipher explores the primal role of grandmothers in a fast-changing world.

In this groundbreaking collection, you will encounter the real stories that usually go untold. Free ofplatitudes and clichés, the essays in Eye of My Heart are linked by a common thread: a love for grandchildren that knows no bounds, despite inescapable obstacles and limitations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061474163
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/06/2010
Pages: 310
Sales rank: 593,952
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About 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.

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.

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Eye of My Heart 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 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."
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book to read as Mother's Day approaches. This is a collection of reflections of many women on that role of grandmothering...the good, the bad, the ugly. The book shows that being a grandmother is not an easy thing to be with the role often being determined by the adult child and/or spouse. Sometimes a grandmother can only be what is allowed and nothing more. Sometimes this role can bring up old unresolved parent/child issues. But every writer agrees that this is a unique one of a kind relationship that is very, very special.This book is very readable and would make a great Mother's Day gift or a gift for a new grandmother.
Suzieqkc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This collections of essays by well-known writers/grandmothers is not the sweet book about being a nana that I was looking for. It's like a punch in the gut, actually. It's an honest look at what being a grandmother is really like for these women. There's no sugar coating here. These women have stories about their relationships (or lack of) with their adult children, their feelings about not seeing junior enough or seeing him too much. I recommend it because life is real. Someone may find something similar to their situation and feel comforted.
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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