It started with some casual chatter about my new Facebook profile photo but it ended with me being a bit thunderstuck.
The new photo was posted this week and it's me with Sandy Johnson Etelamaki. My smart-alecky comment under the photo was "Friends since kindergarten. That's what? 20 years now?"
To which Sandy replied: "Oh Yeah... just barely 20 years."
After my chuckling ended, a quick calculation left me, as I said, thunderstruck. It has not been 20 years since Sandy and I were in kindergarten. It has been 50 years. FIFTY YEARS. Half a century. Five. O.
My column two weeks ago was about back-to-school time but for whatever reason, that didn't inspire me to do the math about how many years had passed since my first days as a school kid.
It's not a matter of denial. Believe me, most mornings, I feel every year of my age and when I look in the mirror, the lines and wrinkles are a reminder youth is a memory and a distant one at that.
It's not something to try to hide, being almost 55. Too many people are not afforded the opportunity of growing old. Battling cancer - Sunday marks four years of remission for me - gave me an appreciation for each year, each day, I live.
But realizing it had been 50 years since my first day in kindergarten, for whatever reason, totally floored me.
Some of that kindergarten year remains with me, mostly in flashes of memory.
Vic Tullila was my bus driver. The bus stopped right in front of my Negaunee Township house to pick up the Reichels, the Nykanens, the Wickstroms and me to bring us with a passel of other kids at other stops to Lakeview Elementary School.
My teacher was Mrs. Dorothy Munson - I had to ask her daughter-in-law Barb to tell me Mrs. Munson's first name for this column. That was something you didn't think about as a kid, that your teacher had a first name other than Mr. or Mrs. or that they even had a "real" life outside the classroom.
There are many snippets of memory, but the moment of my kindergarten year that is most vivid for me is Nov. 22, 1963. That, of course, is the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My half-day of school already over that Friday afternoon, I was at home chattering when my mom shushed me: She had the radio on and the first reports were coming in from Dallas.
We went into the living room and turned on the television - something my mom never did in the afternoon. Sitting next to her, I fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, even my teenage brothers were weeping and that scared me greatly. Neither had ever shed a tear in front of me before.
FIfty years since that assassination stunned the world. Half a century gone by now, years filled with war and assassination and terrorism ... things the kindergarten me couldn't have imagined and the adult me wishes she could forget. Of course, myriad good things have filled those years as well and I choose to hold those moments closer to my heart than the bad ones.
Here's hoping the kids starting kindergarten in 2013 have lives filled with laughter, joy and peace, more good memories than bad.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org