This lovely literary compendium, edited by Barbara Graham and subtitled: “27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother,” was published last month by HarperCollins ($24.99). Its 27 essays provide windows into many different emotional faces and phases of grandparenting and what it can mean to be a grandmother.
Reading these grandmothers' stories, I sometimes feel that “ping!” of recognition: Yes, I’ve had that feeling too. And at other times I marvel at how very different their feelings are from mine. Who are these women who write so well from their hearts?
• Barbara Graham, the book’s editor, got my total attention when she described her “besotted state” of being a grandmother, her joy at the new grandbaby’s parents’ decision to move near her, and then her grief at hearing that they would be moving an ocean away, to Europe, with this precious little girl. I immediately felt again my own grief when my own children made that last decision (which I wrote about at the time, 21 years ago, and then posted to these pages).
Then there are the other grandmothers you come to know intimately in these pages, like:
• Lynne Sharon Schwartz, who likens a grandmother’s love to teen love: “the same giddy absorption, the same loss of all sense of proportion, the same transcendent idiocy.”
• Marcie Fitzgerald (a pseudonym), who adopted her grandson because of her daughter’s emotional illness and is experiencing parenthood all over again.
• Judith Viorst, who feels competitive toward the other grandmother for the children’s love and affection.
• India-born Bharati Mukherjee, who celebrates her family’s mix of cultures as she describes the naming ceremony in New York for her China-born granddaughter and who contrasts her own upbringing with those of her children and grandchildren.
• Anne Roiphe, who keeps telling herself that frank and open communication about grandchildren has its limits -- lest she offend her daughter.
• Lynn Lauber, who as an unmarried teenager gave her biological daughter up for adoption, found her as an adult, and now revels in being “Grandma” to her daughter’s daughter.
• Then there’s Abigail Thomas, the “lazy Nana” of twelve grandchildren who doesn’t sound lazy at all, but who wants, among other things, to “play with her grandchildren and then have their parents take them away.”
I liked reading these and the other stories in the book one at a time, savoring each individual tale, musing on each one’s insights, pondering on the many ways in which every grandmother and every grandparent-grandchild relationship is unique. “Eye of My Heart” offers a store of riches to help us grannies understand our roles a little better.