It was a cold, wet morning, but nothing could dampen the children's spirits at Juan de Anza School in Hawthorne. Their grandparents were coming.
So many grandparents--175 of them--that when the rain drove last week's Grandparents' Day events indoors, they had to be divided into two sessions.
Virginia Meyer, the school's special projects coordinator, said Grandparents' Day was designed to let the grandparents know that they are special to the children.
"We want them to understand how important they are in the lives of their grandchildren and also involve them in the school program so they know what is going on," she said. "We are experiencing more single parents now. Having the grandparents is very important to the kids as part of the extended family.
"In a small community like this, we have many families where the children went to school here, and now their children go to school here, and they all still live in the area."
The program began with children parading through the small library with hand-made banners. Awards were handed out to the grandparents who were the youngest and oldest (no ages were given); those who had come the farthest (Las Vegas) and nearest (three blocks); those with the most grandchildren (40); the most great-grandchildren (13), and the most grandchildren at Anza School (5).
Two fifth-graders then read their poems--some complete with rhymes, some not, some in between.
"My grandma goes to the beauty shop," 11-year-old Kerie Middagh recited. "She goes on Thursdays. She gets her fingernails painted and her hair done. She comes back a beauty, not saying she wasn't a beauty before. I love my grandmother very much. Even if she wasn't my grandma, I'd still love her."
"My grandpa loves to watch TV," Kerie continued. "When he isn't working, he watches TV. He usually falls asleep watching TV."
Brian Gaeta, another 11-year-old, made his poem rhyme:
"Grandpa, you are really great, when we play games you're a good teammate. . . . I think my grandpa is really funny, when his neighbor is gone, he feeds his bunny. . . . Grandpa, you are active. You play golf and you fish, you dance and you play, and you sing all day. . . . You are also attractive. You are strong, handsome and thin. Grandpa, if you are in a marathon, you would surely win.
"My Grandma's favorite tennis player is McEnroe. But if we had a rowboat, my grandma would surely row. . . . If someone asks her to bring something to a party, she would bring something really hearty."
The grandparents then visited their grandchildren in their classrooms. In one room full of first-graders, grandparents proudly hovered over their grandchildren as they practiced writing numbers or coloring pictures.
Don Yarger, 66, of El Segundo, solemnly watched his granddaughter, Misty, work on her numbers.
"I think this is great," Yarger said. "You just can't spend too much time with your grandchildren, particularly nowadays when both parents are out in the world trying to make a living. Grandparents have the time, and they should spend it with their grandchildren."
Meanwhile, Misty was concentrating on her work.
How do you like your grandfather visiting you, she was asked.
"Umh, fine," she said.
Are you having fun with your grandfather?
"Uh-huh," she said without looking up.
What are you going to do now?
"After this, then I eat lunch, and then my grandpa goes home, and then I do more work," she said.
In another corner of the room, teacher Patsy Hasegawa greeted grandparents, all of whom wanted confirmation that their progeny were indeed prodigies.
"My granddaughter is Christy," one man said. "Is she a pretty good student?"
"She's wonderful, just like you," Hasegawa told him.
"We're Rachel's grandparents," another pair said. "How is she doing?"
"She'd doing very well," Hasegawa said.
The grandparents left smiling.