Years ago, when I worked at Sacred Heart Catholic School, there was one day of the year I dreaded more than any other.
The school was a madhouse, overrun with grandparents. They were in the lobby, the cafeteria, the library, the hallways. Everywhere I looked, I would see a Mimi or a Papaw, a Nana or a Gramps.
I’m sure it’s the same at all schools that host a Grandparents Day, but to fully appreciate the situation, you should understand how quiet a school building is during the day. You wouldn’t think so what with hundreds of kids everywhere, but with the exception of arrival and dismissal, a glorious silence envelops the place. Except for that one day when we were covered up with wall-to-wall grandparents. It was impossible for me to get any work done.
Flash forward a dozen years and look at me now, going back to my old workplace — as one of THEM.
Gidget is my grandparent name. Want to take a wild guess what my husband Tim is called? Moondoggie, you might say? Ding, ding, ding. I thought it was kind of dumb, but he insisted, saying, “If you’re going to be Gidget, I’m going to be Moondoggie.” I have to admit that it’s cuteness overload when one of our grandchildren races towards him yelling “Moondogggggieee!”
Moondog and I arrived at the school last week and headed to the assembly room for the opening ceremonies. I spotted Charlie Maniscalco across the way, sitting with his wife, Natalie. Charlie is known more casually around the school as Coach Man and was one of four principals I worked with during my time at Sacred Heart. Like me, he’s retired now. I made my way over to him before the program began. “How does it feel being here as a grandparent and not as the principal?” I asked him.
He sighed and shook his head as if there were no words to describe it. “Way more relaxed,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about a thing. I can just sit back and enjoy the show.”
Following that show, a delightful musical program, all of us grandmas and grandpas made our way to the individual classrooms of our precious grandangels. For Moondog and me, the first stop was 4K, where our granddaughter, Laney, is learning her way in the world. She presented us with two gifts. A gourd birdhouse and a — well, I’m not sure what it is. Miniature handprint artwork with a clasp attached. A key chain, maybe? Or an ornament? It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it’s a prized possession because it came from her.
After visiting the first-grade classroom to see the work displayed by our grandson, Timmy, we headed to the lunchroom. Calamity Central, I should call it, where the decibel reading was creeping up to an illegal zone. We grandparents can be a rowdy bunch.
As if there weren’t enough of us in attendance, I came across a couple of pseudo-grandparents. Keila Sevgi, Sacred Heart’s Hispanic ministry coordinator, and Preston Winkles, the school’s music instructor, were all dressed up and ready to serve as grandmother and grandfather to any kid whose real grandparents couldn’t make it to the event.
When the time came to leave, I wove my way through the crowded hallways — and I spotted the door to my old office.
It was closed.
I couldn’t resist.
I stopped, knocked, opened the door and spotted Elizabeth Ann Heathcock sitting behind the desk, actually trying to get some work done. “Oh no,” I chided her. “You don’t get to close the door on Grandparents Day.” She hung her head in mock shame and I couldn’t help but laugh, as I knew the feeling.
There are so many things I miss about working at the school, but Grandparents Day is not on that list. Coach Man was right. On this particular day, it’s way more fun to just sit back and enjoy the show.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.