A generational celebration

Interaction: On Grandparents and Special Persons Day at Elkridge Elementary School, adults bonded with first-graders and enjoyed a Thanksgiving `feast.'


November 26, 2003|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Late Thursday night, Leonard and Barbara Pozor arrived in Howard County from their home in Poland on a visit to family here.

By 9:30 a.m. the next day, the Pozors were scrunched into child-size seating in the Elkridge Elementary School cafeteria, along with granddaughter, Ola Pozor, and about 100 other first-graders, their parents and grandparents.

Like most of the other adults there, the elder Pozors wore big smiles as they took in the sights of Elkridge Elementary's traditional Friday-before-Thanksgiving "Grandparents and Special Persons Day."

"We enjoy it very much," Leonard Pozor said. "... It was a surprise for us."

The children, dressed in paper feather headdresses or Puritan bonnets and crayon-decorated paper vests, were pint-sized versions of Native Americans and Pilgrim settlers. And just as the first Americans did long ago, the schoolroom counterparts enjoyed a Thanksgiving "feast."

The kids prepared the food the day before in their classrooms and decorated the place mats. Each paper plate contained a handful of popcorn, a small slice of cornbread and daubs of applesauce and pumpkin pudding.

Principal Diane Mumford said the children made invitations and sent them home more than a month and a half ago because some of the grandparents plan their Thanksgiving travel to include the event, which features morning and afternoon open classrooms in all the grades.

The Pozors were not the first grandparents to visit from a great distance. Mumford said guests have come from Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Others routinely attend from out of town and out of state.

Willie and Charlie Oliver came to this year's Grandparents Day from Silver Spring to visit granddaughters Gabrielle and Darcey Rayner. Willie Oliver said she was pleased the school had made the day so special for children and grandparents.

Jean Johns traveled from Rehoboth Beach, Del., for Grandparents Day. Her grandson, Cody Johns, 6, and granddaughter, Sara Johns, 8, attend the school.

"I think it's a great idea," Johns said. "It's fun, [and] I think the kids enjoy showing off their school and what they've made and everything."

The Johns family represents a link to the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower in 1620. Jean Johns said that they are direct descendants of several on the Mayflower, including William Brewster, church elder for the Plymouth Colony, and John Alden, a deputy governor of the colony whose travails in courtship are the subject of a classic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Cody Johns had apparently paid attention to his teacher's lessons. He was able to describe the difficult living conditions aboard the Mayflower and to point out the meaning of the "Indian symbols" for turkey, bear trap, fire, star and village he had drawn on his paper vest.

The visitors at Friday's program were well-represented by newer pilgrims to America. Juliet Mbagwu, originally from Nigeria, sat near her grandson, Steven Mbagwu, a first-grader who wore a Pilgrim hat. Mbagwu said she was happy to see what the children were learning.

Across the table from the Mbagwu family were Elkridge residents, first-grader Neila Lizwelicha, 6, her mother, Joyce Lizwelicha, and her grandmother, Vennie Lizwelicha. Neilah's brother, Gamba, is in the fourth grade at Elkridge. Joyce said that grandmother Vennie lives with the family and helps out. Grandparents Day was important to both of them.

"I think it's a great day for parents to interact with children," Joyce Lizwelicha said. "And I think it's especially nice that they have added the grandparents. ... In a society like this that's so busy, grandparents play a very special role in the children's life."

"It's a big day for them," Mumford said. " ... We try to make the day typical so the grandparents can see what it's like. But we also have special activities."

Those activities included singing Thanksgiving songs ("Hello Mr. Turkey, How Are You?" was a peppy first-grade number); children reciting the things for which they are thankful (family, friends and God were top choices); interactive games with grandparents and friends, coloring and cutting out paper turkeys together, taking photographs of grandparents to hang up at school and offering grandparents the opportunity to send letters to their grandchildren via the school's in-house postal system.

In Belinda Miller's second-grade classroom, Barbara and Walter Lipka of Ellicott City were substituting as grandparents for their young friend, Maciej Kaminski, whose grandparents are in Poland.

Barbara Lipka was born in Poland. They sat at a table with pupils and guests and joined in the classroom discussion comparing the differences between school life now and the "old days" of the adults' childhoods.

"It's fun to watch these big granddaddies sitting, trying to fit in these little chairs," said Mumford, recalling past visits from grandparents. " ... The child will just put their arms all around them and stroke their heads. .... They're just so happy [to have them here]."

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