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Prime Time: School memories: Magical, musical

I am just now starting to remember to write the date as 2012.

It is a problem every year, for the first few weeks, to break the thoughtless habit of writing the numbers for the old year. I am now at the age to be amazed to think that I have reached this date and year. When I was a kid, I often thought about hoping to live long enough to arrive at the end of the 1900s and celebrate the magical year 2000.

In my youth, the early January return to school classes after the Christmas break brought a mixed reaction. In a way it was back to "the old grind." But it was also the fun of seeing school friends again and sharing stories of the gifts we got and the family fun of the holiday season.

The distance to school from our neighborhood was a good mile and there were no school buses in those days, so unless it was snowing hard or the temperature was well below zero, we were expected to walk it. Our old grade school, which was the building my mother had attended, included no cafeteria or gym. We walked home for lunch and back, which at least made sure we got our exercise. We climbed up to our classrooms on the old wooden stairs that had deep dips worn in the middle from the many feet that had trod them over the years.

My first-grade teacher was near retirement; she had actually been my mother's teacher years before. It was the only time in my school life that I was "teacher's pet" and it was not because I was so unusually smart or well-behaved, but because she had loved my mother and was delighted to see the new generation.

After being the "big wheels" in sixth grade, we moved on to junior high (which is now called middle school) where we were again the new kids on the block, but in our system that level included only seventh and eighth grades. After that, we entered high school in ninth grade. That was such a big step that we were proud of, and most of the older students at that level had more important things to do than spend much energy hassling the freshmen.

Those four high school years are full of new experiences, new friends and lots of important learning that prepares us for jobs or college. When we attended the Bemidji High School Choir concert recently, it brought back many memories for me. I was in the A Cappella Choir, the band and the orchestra. leading toward my college music major.

My first job was as director of the instrumental music program from fifth grade through high school in a suburb of Detroit. I enjoyed working with a great bunch of kids who were eager to play and perform, but after a couple of years, I returned to Illinois to get married and join my new husband. He was finishing his post-war graduate work at Northwestern University, where I had gone to college.

Over the years since then I have found ways to keep active musically wherever he was teaching -- Rochester, Owatonna, suburban Minneapolis and finally Bemidji, where I directed the Methodist Church choir for more than 20 years.

Now I am retired, but I will continue to enjoy singing in church choir and listening with pleasure to all the sounds of music that come my way in 2012.