Grandma’s Heart Opens Up When Grandson Arrives

This essay by Susan Byrum Rountree first appeared in the News & Observer. It is reprinted with permission. Susan is the author of Nags Headers, a regional history set on the North Carolina Outer Banks, and In Mother Words, a collection of essays. Her column appears monthly in the News & Observer. Susan has written for newspapers and magazines throughout the southeast for almost 40 years. The mother of two, she lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and curious dog Scout. She can be reached at

Their early mornings that first week were filled not with their usual work, but work it was: feed, change, swaddle, sleep, wake up when Sooze comes in with the crying baby. My early mornings went like this: up before six, shower and bundle up, cross an almost silent Broadway for the short walk to their apartment — in the falling snow a time or two — then sit for an hour with Henry and my coffee, searching his face and fingers for some trace of my husband and me.

As luck would have it, what might have been his grandfather’s nose softened a bit as he filled out. And though his eyes are blue like mine, I know they might change and all of his soft blonde hair might fall off. None of it mattered, because morning after morning, I couldn’t get enough of his scent and his sly, sleepy smiles.

By daybreak each day, I gave him up to his parents while I set about my own job. I bundled against the wind and traipsed down Broadway to the grocery store. (Though nobody on the Upper West Side has ever traipsed to my knowledge.)

I’d ask my daughter what she wanted most to eat during her first week of motherhood and she named all her favorite things from Beach Lunch — our vacation midday meal and her favorite meal on any day. Chicken salad, potato salad, pimento cheese. Soup. (I’d already made her the obligatory spaghetti and stocked her freezer.)

Oh, how I missed the wide aisles of my neighborhood Food Lion. Jars of pimento are as rare as chitterlings in Manhattan grocery stores. So I made pimento cheese, Manhattan-style, with roasted red peppers. (Truthfully, once made, I could tell no difference.)

Another unexpected gift: time with my child, who has lived away from home now for almost 15 years. We talked. We remembered. We laughed, hugged and cried. I will never forget this time with her, when I felt so needed after too long a time of not.

By the time Henry’s grandfather arrived for the weekend, Henry’s dad was calling him Hank and his mother was no longer fearful he might break. We clothed him in an airport-bought Carolina baby tog to watch the game — he was our good luck charm for his first Tar Heel game but not the second — and tried to sort out a routine. I read to him in the late afternoon from a beautiful Irish novel full of metaphor and simile, believing that it is never too early to start a solid literary education.

And each morning I watched the sunrise with Henry in my lap, soaking in the beauty of his glorious new days.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wondered how I would possibly have enough love inside me to give a baby what it would need, but those early days of parenting revealed that it was there, waiting, all along. And then when I was expecting my son, I asked my sister — mother of three — how it would be possible to love one more. The heart, she said, opens up in ways you can’t imagine. There will always be room to fold another in.

But this grandmother heart has chambers I didn’t know existed. And with every new day that passes, I find a few more. I do love NY.

2 thoughts on “Grandma’s Heart Opens Up When Grandson Arrives”

  1. Okay, I confess tears strand to my eyes as it brought back all my grand memories as well. I also confess that I would sit on the floor by my first grandchild’s crib and Just. Watch. Him. Breathe. It was all I needed at that moment.

    With my first grand daughter I was so beside myself I lock stepped with the pediatrician as he evaluated and weighed her; my heart was pounding just thinking of all the girly things I would get to do with her.

    Thank you fr a lovely ‘Share”.

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