By JENNIFER AMATO
SOUTH BRUNSWICK — An abundance of love filled the South Brunswick Senior Center last week.
More than 120 second graders throughout the township participated in the “Senior That I Love” essay contest, with submissions reviewed by members of the Board Office with 28 semifinalists sent to a panel of judges to review.
“I read all of the essays, and it reminded me of when I was 7 years old,” Maribeth Edmunds, principal on special assignment for the district, said during the April 14 recognition ceremony for the three finalists and four honorable mentions. “It reminded me of my grandma. She used to make me an outfit, take me on the bus, take me to see the Rockettes and after take me to Horn and Hardart.”
Aksheeta Bhasin of Indian Fields Elementary spoke about Eline for her first place essay.
“One day, I got bullied in the bus so I came home crying. I told her about what happened in the bus. She helped me to analyze and solve the problem and she advised me to go ahead and talk to the bully. I went and I met the bully and talked to him. I explained to him how bad it is to bully someone. We should not bully anyone and we should stand up for others.”
Victor Perez of Greenbrook Elementary wrote about his coach and best friend, Don Parlow, for his second place prize.
“When I moved to this town, I had never played football and I was afraid to play but he helped me and he taught me how to play football and he calmed me down and told me I would be okay. He encouraged me to play and practice and learn. He taught me that I can do anything that I want if I tried.”
Zoe Dubois of Monmouth Junction Elementary honored Barbara in her third-place writing piece.
“Barbara is an artist. We have two of her paintings at our house. One time, Barbara gave my sister and me pads of colored paper. We all drew pictures with her, and my grandmother and we cut out shapes. I drew a cat. It was a cool craft because we all did it together. My sister and I even got to keep the books. We actually still have them.
“Once Barbara gave us a ride in her red convertible, but her battery was low and a mechanic had to come to replace it. When it was fixed, she took us to Rita’s. Barbara is always nice. Sometimes it feels like she is my best friend.”
Honorable mention Shruthika Srijeyaraman of Brunswick Acres Elementary showed her love for her aunt.
“The senior that I love is my aunt named Viji. She took care of me when my mom was sick. Also, it was really hard for my dad to take care of me and do his work. So, my aunt stepped in to help. She got me the food that I like very much. She used to pick me up from school too. Also, she gave me a bath and dropped me to the bus stop. I missed my mom a lot. My aunt realized this and was more loving and caring. I personally feel that my aunt was very inspiring as she taught me to always help someone in need.”
Honorable mention went to Shreya Reddy of Brooks Crossing Elementary, who wrote about her grandfather.
“Every day me and my grandpa used to go to the park. I used to ride my bike there and he used to walk next to me and I used to play with my friends. While I was playing, he used to sit there and watch me play.
“One day what happened was I left my bike at the park. … I was sad and thought I lost my bike. I looked out of the window, then I saw my grandpa pushing my bike all the way back home. I was so happy. I went out and hugged him and said, ‘Thank you,’ because I got my bike for my birthday. That’s why I love my grandpa so much.”
Isaaq Shakir-Trush of Cambridge Elementary was happy to have his great-grandmother Maria Tkach travel from her home in Ontario to hear him read his essay that earned honorable mention.
“She was born in 1931 and she lived in the Ukraine in a small village. Her father was a blacksmith. When World War II started, Maria was in the fourth grade. The Nazis came to her village and took her father. Maria had one sister and three brothers and they all had to take all their things that they had and hide in the woods. Maria’s family didn’t know that their father was still alive and the family moved to Russia. Her father escaped and moved to Canada.
“Maria lived in Russia for 43 years. Maria got married to Vasily, who came from Ukraine. They had two kids: one boy and one girl. Maria had to work hard in the mine. When the family got a letter from the father, they were very happy. Then Maria’s mother moved to Canada. Maria’s husband died in 1991 because of a heart attack, and she moved to Canada. Now she lives in Sudbury and we visit her often. I love my great-grandmother because she tells us Russian fairy tales.”
After the ceremony, Isaaq said, “I love her so much. She is the best.”
Tkach responded with, “I want to cry” and said that she enjoys “everything” they do together, such as singing, and will try traditional Ukrainian embroidering soon.
Isaaq’s mother Oksana Trush, who is Tkach’s granddaughter, said that the two had a special relationship from an early age, especially since Isaaq is the first great-grandchild.
“For me, she was always very special. She was my favorite grandmother. I almost grew up with her. So, it’s very important for my children to have a special relationship too,” Trush said.
“Storytelling doesn’t exist anymore. … It almost sounds like a movie. … It’s amazing to see that this person can go through this and still be very kind and very loving, and to me this is the biggest gift I can give to my children.”
Harry Moran of Constable Elementary was also able to hug his grandfather John Fuller after reading his selection that received honorable mention.
“My granddad is Irish and he teaches me about Ireland. He even gave me Irish coins. At Christmastime he has crackers, which are long tubes that pop when pulled at each end. They have cool prizes inside. He tells us about when he was a little boy in Ireland. They are usually funny stories.
“My granddad is the funniest person ever. He is always telling me funny jokes. He also sneaks to the back of our car when we are leaving his house. Then he scares us all, and we all start to laugh.”
Fuller was honored to be chosen for the essay, especially because he loves playing rummy with his grandson, or going to play miniature golf and then getting a hot dog on the way home.
“I’m very proud. It was a great honor,” he said. “I thought he was always the quiet one, that he wasn’t paying attention — but obviously he was all that time.”
The South Brunswick School District and the South Brunswick Senior Center plan inter-generational programs each year. This particular event was organized with Caryl Greenberg, social worker for the South Brunswick Office on Aging, and Regina Barbely, administrative secretary for the school district.
“My heart’s happy today,” Edmunds said. “All of the stories … were just wonderful and heartwarming.”
She also praised the students for their attention to detail and using a beginning, middle and end in each story.
“I want to commend you for your excellent writing skills and exciting storytelling skills,” she said.
Contact Jennifer Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org.