PITTSBURG, Kan. —
I don't remember how I learned there was a holiday called Grandparents Day. I just remember thinking, "We must celebrate."
It was late in 2000 or early in 2001, and we had just become parents, which in turn meant we had created first-time grandparents and great-grandparents on both my husband's side of the family and mine.
All of them lived in Pittsburg, Frontenac and Duquesne, which meant not only did we get to continue to see them often after leaving the nest, they also would play an active role in the lives of our children. We planned our first Grandparents Day celebration with four things in mind:
- The ability to easily and inexpensively feed a gathering of about a dozen people.
- The ability to create heartfelt and inexpensive gifts to express our love and gratitude.
- The importance of gathering everyone for an annual photo.
- The importance of fostering in our son an awareness of and respect for his ancestors and his heritage.
Because my first son was just 10 months old, I created the invitation myself, and likewise with the gift: I selected palm-sized, unpainted boxes from the craft store and added my decorative touches in a way that made each box unique. I typed up and printed off a simple poem about the fact that our son had nothing to give them but his love, and that's what he was tucking inside the box.
After our meal, we posed the great-grandparents and grandparents around our son in the front yard for a photo, which we then labeled with complete names and placed in his scrapbook.
Fast-forward 12 years: We now have two sons, and we're happy to have never missed a Grandparents Day.
We've continued our tradition of serving simple, budget-friendly meals, but as the years passed we picked foods our sons could begin making themselves. Think pita pizzas, grilled kabobs, taco salad, smoothies and ice cream sundaes.
They also now create the gifts themselves. One year it was a handmade, laminated bookmark for each grandparent. Another year it was a necklace of red, white and blue ribbon on which they affixed a wooden star with "#1 Papa" or "#1 Nona."
No gift was too simple to be cherished: A favorite was the year they printed each grandparent's name on a piece of paper, then used crayons to doodle around the letters. A $1 frame completed the masterpiece.
As for the photos, I can think of no single act in my sons' young lives that has been more important than gathering everyone in the front yard, or backyard, or on the steps, or in front of the swing set, to document the generations.
Year by year, a grandparent or great-grandparent no longer appeared in the photo -- and some passed away long enough ago that my sons don't remember them very well. The photos, and the memories, will help them to when they're my age.
National Grandparents Day is a secular holiday celebrated in the United States since 1978 and officially recognized in several countries on various days of the year. In the U.S., it's observed the first Sunday after Labor Day. This year it falls on Sept. 8.