Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen
Nonfiction - Memoir
2019 Random House
Finished on April 24, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
A big-hearted book of wisdom, wit, and insight, celebrating the love and joy of being a grandmother, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and #1 New York Times bestselling author.
It's a little challenging to suss out why exactly it can be so magical. . . . All I know is: The hand. The little hand that takes yours, small and soft as feathers. I'm happy our grandson does not yet have sophisticated language or a working knowledge of personal finance, because if he took my hand and said, "Nana, can you sign your 401(k) over to me," I can imagine myself thinking, well, I don't really need a retirement fund, do I? And besides, look at those eyelashes. Or the greeting. Sometimes Arthur sees me and yells "Nana!" in the way some people might say "ice cream!" and others say "shoe sale!" No one else has sounded that happy to see me in many, many years.
Before blogs even existed, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and modern life, in her nationally syndicated column. Now she's taking the next step and going full Nana in the pages of this lively, beautiful, and moving book about being a grandmother. Quindlen offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. She writes, "Where I once led, I have to learn to follow." Eventually a close friend provides words to live by: "Did they ask you?"
Candid, funny, frank, and illuminating, Quindlen's singular voice has never been sharper or warmer. With the same insights she brought to motherhood in Living Out Loud and to growing older in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, this new nana uses her own experiences to illuminate those of many others.
Nanaville is another irresistible memoir (especially for new grandmothers) by one of my most favorite and prolific authors, Anna Quindlen. I was thrilled to learn that I had won an Advance Reader's Copy through Goodreads, but waited until we were on our three-week road trip before I started reading. I knew I would enjoy it, but wanted to wait until I had a big chunk of uninterrupted time before beginning. From the opening pages, I was hooked, reaching for my Post-It flags, nodding my head in agreement. While my desire to mark passages eventually waned, my interest never did.
On the Shifting Rules of Parenting:
He is also not supposed to be sleeping on his stomach. I cycled through prevailing medical opinion on sleep positions as a young mother. I was supposed to put the first on his stomach so that if he spit up he wouldn't aspirate it into his lungs. (I love it when you hear things like this. The doctor is saying very calmly, "Aspirate into his lungs" and you're nodding and thinking, Aspirate? Into his lungs?) Number two was supposed to be on his side. Have you ever tried to get a baby to sleep on his side? The package is not designed that way. By the third there was some debate, side or back. It seemed someone, somewhere, had decided the lung-aspiration danger no longer applied. I settled the matter with my youngest by choosing the position in which she was most likely to settle down. I had three children under the age of five. Pragmatism was my middle name. If she wanted to sleep upside down like a bat, I would have put a bar on the ceiling above the crib. Whatever gets you through the night.and a few more favorite passages:
Sunlight spreads across the checkerboard tiles in the kitchen, and so do many other things: wooden spoons, a rubber frog, Tupperware, a couple of puzzle pieces, some plastic letters, elements of the obstacle course of the active toddler. Did you know that the wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town? They do, over and over again, sung by the robotic voice of some plastic magnetic thing on the refrigerator. Oh, and Old MacDonald has a farm. The hokey pokey? That's what it's all about.
This soundtrack, I know, will continue into perpetuity, first the nursery song, then the pop song, the rock song, the earworms of motherhood that emanate from the toy radio, the computer, from behind a closed bedroom door with a placard that says PLEASE KNOCK. I have been here before. Sort of.and
It's a complicated relationship, being a good grandparent, because it hinges on a series of other relationships. It's an odd combination of being very experienced and totally green: I know how to raise a child, but I need to learn how to help my child raise his own. Where I once commanded, now I need to ask permission. Where I once led, I have to learn to follow. For years I had strong opinions for a living. Now I need to wait until I am asked for them, and modulate them most of the time. Probably I overreact.and
...I'm learning that being a grandmother is not about the things you have to do. It's about the things you want to do. The fact is that motherhood is mainly about requirements. Very, very little of it is optional, if you're doing it with even a modicum of care. There's no sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and the remote control, saying to yourself, I don't really have to feed that baby. I don't have to change his dirty diaper. I don't have to keep an eye on the toddler when she's around the cat or take her to the pediatrician when she's a hot little bundle of bright red pulling at her ear and sobbing. Motherhood is mainly a roundelay of thou shalt, shalt, shalt.
Nana, unless she has become de facto Mom for some sad reason, is pretty much purely about desire. I've fed the baby, changed the diaper, crawled around on the floor while he went straight for the electrical outlet or the dog's tail. But I've done that because I offered and was accepted. Most grandparents are tethered but not tied, connected but not compelled, except by choice.and
Is there anything better than sitting in a rocking chair with a little boy next to you while you read him Goodnight Moon? Is there anything more magical than the connection between reader and book, Nana reading and grandson listening? Arthur discovered the book The Story of Ferdinand, and because of the gentle bull, he is interested in both flowers and bumblebees. I assume he learning lessons about the possibility of being both strong and gentle, but who knows? All I know is that books are magic. The Story of Ferdinand was published when my father was seven years old, and yet here is his great-grandson attending as Ferdinand is taken to the bullring and refuses to fight.Nanaville can easily be read in a single day, but as with most of Quindlen's books (a half dozen of which I have written about here), I prefer to read slowly, savoring this new book, drawing it out as long as possible in an attempt to make it last just a little bit longer.
My only grandchild (a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted young woman) is turning 17 this summer, has two part-time jobs lined up, and is heading off to college in the fall. While much of Quindlen's vignettes and advice apply to new grandparents, this gem of a book is one I look forward to reading again. My daughter is engaged to be married this fall and is hoping to start a family. I must admit, I would love to cuddle another little grandbaby again some day...
Now that I've finished her latest release, I want to get a copy and read Alternate Side, a novel of Quindlen's that was published 2018, which I somehow neglected to read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.