Armed with a pencil and a clipboard, junior reporter Lola Bird, 9, scrunched her nose, giggled, and prepared to dive into a list of supplied questions for her grandfather.
Thursday was the third- graders’ opportunity to host their grandparents, or a special adult friend, during Grandparents Week at Purdy Elementary School. Each grade set aside a couple hours per day so students could hang out and show off G-Pa, Gramms or Auntie Joyce.
Third-grade teacher Wendy Pinto thought an interview about their experiences as 9-year-olds would be a nice way for the seniors to bridge the generation gap — provided they could remember them, of course.
Jann Van der Veen, 70, had no problem.
“I was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1945,” he began with a gentle smile. “We had a family of six.”
“What did you do for fun when you were 9?” queried Bird.
“I was very involved in soccer,” Van der Veen said.
“Which is called football (outside the U.S.),” his granddaughter corrected him.
Yes, he nodded. “I was a goalie.”
Bird’s buddy, Sophia Junior, stood alongside and interviewed Bird’s grandmother, Susan, 70, who agreed to be an adopted grandparent because Junior’s couldn’t attend that day.
“I rode my bike, and I played in the woods,” Susan said.
“OK, Grandpa, I want to know what things cost when you were very young. A gallon of gas?”
Van der Veen shook his head. “I have no idea. Nobody had a car.”
“A McDonald’s hamburger, which you probably didn’t have?” said Bird.
“Didn’t have them,” said Van der Veen.
“A movie ticket?”
“A movie ticket?” responded Van der Veen. “Oh, I don’t know. I think they were about 20 cents.”
“Mine was cheaper than that,” said Susan.
Bird turned to Junior and giggled again. “Can you believe that? That’s so cheap!”
Sincere revelations like these and the simple delight students take in showing loved ones their favorite art project or the koi pond are what make Grandparents Week near and dear to librarian Ann Cook’s heart.
“I love seeing the grandparents come in and interact with the kids,” said Cook, who has coordinated the program for the past 10 years. “It makes a big difference having grandparents rooting them on ... they usually spoil them, so it makes for a special relationship.”
Judging from the turnout of several hundred grandparents and friends this week, the bond extends both ways. Other schools in the Peninsula School District have similar programs, but the 25-year-plus Purdy event is likely the largest and most beloved.
“I think it’s great that older people can come and see what the young people are doing now, compared to when we went to school,” said Joyce Hersch, 87, great aunt of Cana Moore, 9.
Hersch’s sister, Deanna, Cana’s grandmother, passed away several years ago.
“I’m going to show her my classroom, my desk and ...,” said Moore, thinking for a moment.
“And my teacher.”
Hersch smiled, squeezed Moore’s shoulders, and off they went.