September 7,1965 was the Tuesday after Labour Day and therefore the first day of school. It was fifty years ago, and was indeed my very first day of school – ever. By coincidence over the weekend I noticed an obituary in the local newspaper, the deceased had the same surname as my grade one teacher. Sure enough it was her brother, but what intrigued me was that she was not listed among the ‘pre-deceased by’, but was included in the ‘will be sadly missed by’ list. She is still alive.
Later that day I was talking with someone and mentioned the whole fifty year anniversary of my first day of school and the obituary. He surprised me by saying that not only did he know she was alive, but that he had seen her only last week. He is a priest who says mass once a week at the residence where my grade one teacher now lives and she attends regularly.
The last time I had any contact with her was after I graduated from university. The community newspaper used to gather lists of graduates each spring and publish the names of those who live in town. Sure enough one day in the spring of 1981 I answered the telephone, the voice at the other end said she was looking for me and asked if she had the correct number. I assured the caller she had found me, and was then most pleasantly surprised when she introduced herself and congratulated me on my graduation. I was gobsmacked. It was only sometime after that I thought how pleasing it must have been for her to see former grade one students, and I’m sure she called as many as she could track down, who had gone through university.
I recall that she made Christmas stockings for all her students and gave them to us when we left in December. I used mine for many years until it was lost in a fire.
I was trying to figure out how old she would be. As a five-year old on that first day fifty years ago (I turned six in September so on day one I was still just five) my grade one teacher, in fact all teachers, seemed very old. But of course that had more to do with their position of authority than their actual age I believe.
Much as she was pleased to learn I had stuck with my studies, I was pleased that she is doing well.