One of the best things about being a grandmother is that I get to define my role as I go along. I can be hands-on sometimes, hands-off other times, fun-loving when I’m in the mood, and too-busy-to-take-care-of-them at other times. It’s all good and it works; my relationships with my grandsons are really comfortable. My daughters-in-law appreciate the time I spend with the kids, and the family dynamics are great (most of the time!).
So when last week, photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein from Kansas City, emailed me and asked if I would I write a review of her new children’s read-aloud photo book called Some Grandmas, I said yes!
Some Grandmas is a collection of photos taken by Gloria of all kinds of grandmothers from all over the world doing all kinds of things with their grandchildren. Short captions accompany each photo for reading aloud to a child. While one grandmother might be flying a kite with her grandchild, another will be painting. While one grandmother might be in a wheelchair talking to her grandchild, another will be riding a bike. All the photos are captivating, and capture the mood of love, caring, and bonding between grandmother and grandchild.
While the stereotypical grandmother with the silver or white bun and spectacles who sits in a rocking chair and knits is one type of grandmother, she is not necessarily the only image of a grandmother nowadays. Just as 60 is the new 40, grandmothers’ hobbies are getting more youth-oriented these days. Grandmothers are free to be who they are, and bond with their grandchildren in ways that they (and the children) choose. The opportunities are endless and it is helpful for all generations to realize that.
The words on each page of Some Grandmas, as is typical of children’s read-aloud books, are few. Every page starts with the words, “Some grandmas…” and is followed simply with what the grandma in that picture is doing.
My own grandmothers who were from Europe, were the free-spirited kind of women, who liked art, photography, literature and theatre, and I had close relationships with both of them, sharing my hobbies and passions with them. I would go to one grandmother’s house and we would make arts and crafts projects together. My other grandmother took me by subway to plays on my days off from school. She helped me with my French homework and cut out newspaper clippings for me for my school projects. Some of my friends had grandmothers who were less hands-on, but were equally warm, loving and friendly.
Nowadays, with life expectancy hitting a record high, the types of activities and pastimes that grandmothers do with their grandchildren are evolving from knitting to playing Chinese checkers to doing sports to shopping and other active games. All of these activities – from the wheelchair bound grandmother to the hiking or bicycling one, are worthy of getting grandparent and grandchild to bond.
Gloria Feinstein is an experienced and renowned photographer living in Kansas City, Missouri, with her work displayed at various exhibitions. The idea for this book came to her after she had already written adult books. Gloria had photographed a woman, Linda Cohen in her Sukkah before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot with her grandchildren and both grandmother and child were looking up at the roof of the sukkah. Gloria noted the wonder and curiosity in both of their faces and decided to explore the expressions and wonderment of other grandmothers in their activities with their grandchildren.
That photo and her grandchild is now on the cover of Some Grandmas.
The Grandmother Appellation
A grandmother of two, with the older one only 4 1/2, Ms. Feinstein, who is called “G-Lo” by her grandchildren dedicated her book to “all the Grandmas, Omas, Abuelitas, Savtas, Gramma, Gran, Bubbie, Nonna, Yaya…..” and listed no less than 54 (yes, I counted!) names for grandmothers. I was proud of myself for knowing many of them, although I learned quite a few. (I had never heard of Yaya!).
One on One Relationship
What I liked about this book is that each picture has only one grandmother and one grandchild in it. That is significant to me because it shows the quality time and closeness inherent in the special relationship between grandparent and grandchild. Naturally, grandchildren often share their time with their grandmothers, but for this book, Ms. Feinstein photographed the one-on-one relationship.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books Some Grandmas, go to a large care center in Kansas City to help support their Volunteer Grandmother program. The center provides services to children of the working poor.
Ms. Feinstein also made a creative set of items: tee-shirt and tote bag, which are featured on the site with the book. Take a look there for those and other items!