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Old dog, new tricks

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Just when we boomers thought we had experienced everything, a curve ball comes across the plate. What I am about to address is “old hat” for a slew of you gray hairs out there. But for me it's still fairly new.

My 30-something daughter texted an invitation to an educational function involving our oldest granddaughter, who is 8 years young and in the midst of her third-grade year at Northwestern Elementary. This little clambake for the tri-graders was designed to provide an opportunity to shine for their “grandies.” I'm sure you already guessed it, “Grandparent's Day”.

On the appointed G-Day, it just so happened, my dear spouse was under the weather. So I prepared for a solo act out on the west side.

To avoid frightening the cherubs, I left my torn and stained T-shirt and denim pantaloons on the bedroom floor where I generally hang them. I shaved up, scrubbed up, and donned some finer threads. We Eastern Howard Countyites aren't a bunch of heathens. First impressions are everything ya' know.

Mounting my faithful Silverado steed, I headed west. I'm not complaining you see, but there is absolutely no direct route from the east side out to the brick schoolhouse in Clay Township. If there was a recorded version of “War and Peace,” one could just about finish if off in travel time.

When approaching the assigned NHS parking area, I knew I had the right day. It was reminiscent of the March on the River Kwai. A steady stream of folks from my generation was trekking from the lot toward the building. Upon parking, I melded into the exodus.

The flow of senior humanity hit a snag as we came closer to the first pair of doors. Rats, locked! Never fear. Referring to the instructions our children had provided, Door 38 was the assigned access point. With the skill of Meriwether Lewis and Daniel Boone, we reconnoitered and arrived on time without casualty.

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FLASHBACK — Northwestern Elementary third graders perform a skit onstage during Grandparent’s Day. Boomers browse the book fair with grandchildren.

Entering the aforementioned Door 38, we were greeted with a wide smile and a “welcome” from Elementary Principal Tiffany Myers. The NHS staff shepherds gently herded us into the beautiful auditorium where I spotted a couple of retired crimefighter work chums down front and made my nest next to them. Shortly thereafter I was joined by my granddaughter's paternal grandma.

One by one, each individual classroom of third-grade kiddos performed skits designed to honor grandparents. It was obvious from the outset, these kids rehearsed their roles. Some were easily heard. Others were a bit timid, just barely audible, but their performances were fantastic and funny!

As separate children stepped up to the microphone to utter their lines, I glanced back at the crowd. The sight was something akin to a human automatic toaster as people popped up with cellphones in hand, snapping pictures or video footage of their growing babies.

As a finale, all five classes mounted the stage simultaneously. They belted out some familiar music, and their sound was marvelous. They had the place rockin' when lyrics started flowing with, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog. He was a good friend of mine...” There wasn't a grandboomer in the place who wasn't singing along and thinking of days when our hair was longer, darker, and gravity had not yet taken its toll.

We had a schedule to follow, so a book fair was the next port of call. Rack upon rack of colorful linguistic publications were set up, designed with young readers in mind. What a brilliant marketing ploy. What grandparent can resist those big puppy-dog eyes? Next we entered the inner sanctum of the home classroom where children proudly showed off their personal space: their desk. They contained a lot more gear than ours did in the ‘60s. I didn't see any Crayolas or Elmer's glue, only iPads.

And the classrooms were so busy. If there was a square inch of unused wall space, I couldn't find it. All we had in our day was the cursive writing examples hanging above the blackboard or relief map of the United States. Blackboard, ha! No dusty chalk trays or erasers to clean out now. Dry erase boards with magnetic capabilities is the ticket nowadays.

A familiar aroma began to load my nostrils. Oh yeah, it was time for lunch. With a $3.50 lunch ticket in hand we headed for the cafeteria. In the ‘60s I think lunch was 35 cents, but on this day it was worth every nickel.

The menu offering was my all-time favorite school lunch of old, chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, and a soft dinner roll, polished off with a frozen dessert. The only deviation, I opted for vanilla milk rather than chocolate. Everything was delish!

Afterward came lunchtime recess. With a full tummy and arthritic toe, I took it easy to avoid embarrassing myself or granddaughter. She's wary enough of me the way it is. So I hung out with the playground police and soaked up the rays.

It was a great time. With six more grandchildren coming up, there will be a lot of opportunity to show this old dog new tricks. I'm ready with lunch money in hand.

-That's 30-