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Grandparent observance honors 'Nanas,' 'Papas'

By Johnny Jackson and Curt Yeomans

jjackson@henryherald.com

The two things Jimmy Sides holds in high regard are doughnuts and his grandparents. On Friday, the 9-year-old, and his 5-year-old brother, Joseph, got to indulge in both.

Their grandparents, Warren and Bonnie Sides, traveled three hours from Wedowee, Ala., to join them in a "Grandparents Breakfast." It was one of several at area schools celebrating grandparents.

Schools in Clayton and Henry counties honored grandparents by inviting them to have breakfast, or lunch, this week. National Grandparents Day is recognized formally Sept. 7.

Grandparents visited with their grandchildren at Strong Rock Christian School in Locust Grove throughout the morning. Many seem to relive their own childhood as they noticed how things have changed. For some, their visits provided exposure to some new technologies at Locust Grove, which opened about a year ago.

Their grandchildren joked about the changes.

"They probably didn't have drink machines like we do now," teased grandson, Jimmy Sides. "They definitely didn't have SMART Boards." A reference to interactive touch-controlled, computerized projection screens - the equivalent of the 21st Century chalkboard.

"When we were in school, we only needed pencils and paper," quipped his 68-year-old grandmother, Bonnie.

Elsewhere, at Church Street Elementary School in Riverdale, a lunch on Friday was an opportunity to thank the grandparents for supporting the education of their grandchildren. Nina Endow, a counselor at Church Street, said grandparents are important because they fill the role of a parent for several students.

"Grandparents are always willing to come up to our school and volunteer in any way they can," said Endow. "Grandparents are vital to education. When a child knows a grandparent could be called to report misbehavior, he or she is less likely to step out of line. They know grandparents don't put up with much play in the classroom, because they understand the importance of education."

In the cases of some grandparents, like Jimmy and Emma Watkins, who came down from Atlanta to have lunch with their granddaughters, Amayah and JazReale Jinks, the title comes with some duties.

"When their mom needs daycare, she comes to us, but we don't mind," said Jimmy. "We spoil them, but we also play basketball and go to the park with them, but most of all, we go to church together."

Many of the grandparents at Church Street said the best part about having grandchildren is spoiling them, and then sending them home. Many of grandparents said having grandchildren is made special by sharing important moments in their lives.

"It's great when you're watching them grow up and seeing all of the little special moments in their lives," said Ruth Martin, who drove from Cordele to Church Street for a meal of fried chicken, scalloped potatoes and steamed vegetables ,with grandsons, Lance and Morius.

"When Lance was in kindergarten, for example, he could recite the names of all of the books in the Bible, and that was really special. I also enjoy going to see all of the sporting events they participate in," she added. Lance then turned away from his lunch tray and exclaimed, "I just love having my grandmother coming up to see me."

In Henry County at McDonough's Oakland Elementary School, some fifth-graders showcased their musical talents at the school's annual Grandparents Tea. Sergio Vargas, 10, played drums in a percussion ensemble, organized by his fifth-grade teacher, Mary Lee.

Sergio, who only sees his grandparents once during the summer, sent them a letter a few weeks ago inviting them to attend his school's observance. "It's really cool," Sergio said. His grandparents, Francisco and Claude Vargas, came from Puerto Rico on Thursday, to surprise him. "I'm really happy for having them here. They are really fun, and I love them."

A two-day celebration was held at Hawthorne Elementary School in Hampton, to accommodate the more than 100 grandparents. Jadin Fuzell got to see both her grandmothers, Madelyn Fuzzell and Barbara Coleman of Jonesboro.

"It feels really good because my mother died when she was 45, so she never got to know her grandchildren, and here I am getting ready to welcome a great-child into the world," said Madelyn. "I like to spend a lot of time with my grandchildren, and expose them to as many different things as possible," she added.

"We go swimming together, and we do arts and crafts, read books and ride bicycles together," Jadin interjected.

Nancy Hamp, who had lunch on Wednesday with her granddaughters, Tajah and Taylah Robinson, recounted how she felt when Tajah, 8, the oldest grandchild was born.

"I was elated when my daughter became pregnant, and I immediately went shopping and bought stuff that could be for either a boy or a girl ,since we didn't know the gender," Hamp said. "[After Tajah was born] We spent many days out on the porch swing, just rocking her gently in our arms."