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  Monday September 1st, 2014    

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Regards, Mr. Peters, wherever you are! (02/15/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns


     
When yesterday becomes tomorrow, and regrets and triumphs begin to pile up, one realizes that he or she has been around the block more than a few times. Ignorance is bliss, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and if I'd have known you were coming I'd have spiked the punch. Oh, sweet mystery of life!

Who'd have ever thunk it! Most students, making their ways through public school, don't have a clue what their future will bring. As a teen, I had never imagined that one day I'd have my own weekly column in a newspaper! If I had taken my English teacher Bob Riege's advice, I'd have gone on to school for journalism. Do I regret it? Not as things have turned out, thank you.

Back then, unlike today's students' excessive aspirations and ambitions, I didn't think beyond Saturday night's dance and the week's Sunday School lesson. Our lives were far less intense - college was an option, not an urgency.

Wonders never cease! What an eye-opener, running into my Lewiston High School history teacher years later and discovering that he still looks primarily the same as he did forty years ago, no worse for the wear and tear, and maybe a little handsomer. What did I expect? That high school teachers metamorphose and shrivel up, fading, into the wild blue yonder?

The same people you once knew aren't always in the same places they once were. I ran into Mr. Peters twice in the past year, once at Beiers Restaurant and, recently, in a liquor store in Winona. I felt awkward calling him Curt. I had no inkling, way back in those irresponsible ‘60s, that Mr. Peters would one day be complimenting me on my essays!

Sometimes reality (not ignorance) is bliss. I never thought I'd see the day that Pat and I would revert back to a camping experience in mid-life. That's turned out to be one of the best paths we've forged in our thirty-eight years of detours, dead ends, U-turns, scenic highways, and fast lanes together.

Camping before our kids arrived was rugged, traipsing through uncharted terrain, stomping down a space to set up camp and struggle with a tent, along with other adventuresome buddies. Those days were numbered as we grew up. During our kiddies-whirlwind, we started out with a pop-up camper. Those were the weenie, pudgy pies, and 'smores days and raucous nights around the campfires.

As their teen years were thrust upon us, it soon became our three and all friends welcome! We bought a used, cramped trailer, but it had a john! The kids slept around the waning fire in sleeping bags. As years have melted away to adulthood, stories shared of those campouts at Money Creek remind us of how far removed we are now from those rambunctious days in the raw sun and, to tunes from the fifties and sixties, beneath a winking nighttime galaxy.

This spring will be the fifth year, for Pat and me, up at the Chetek getaway, our camper with all the modern conveniences of a home. Something we hadn't planned, that we did on a whim, Oak Grove and Lake Ojaski seemed "just right." It turned out to be the most compelling adventure of our life together as a family. Our three grandchildren, the new kids on the block, and our haven up north woke us up!

Grandpa and I have our retreat up north. The kids' families come to visit. If we had pondered and stressed over what we would be doing with our lives as seniors, we could never have perceived a more perfect outcome. We aren't ready to be put out to pasture yet, still in the office punching computer keys. (I'd have never believed that either!)

No one knows what existence's next epoch has in store. Yesterday becomes tomorrow...memories tug at the heart and gray matter, for just a sip of youth, the nostalgic taste of initiations. Don't get around much anymore.

Goodnight, Mr. Peters, wherever you are. Bliss be with you. 

 

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