It's a pretty big number -- 781 is.
I mean, everything's relative. So if we're talking about grains of rice or number of snowflakes that fall in a winter, sure, fine, 781 isn't a very big number at all.
But if we're talking about number of jean jackets owned, or number of Legos stepped on — or, say, number of weekly essays someone has written and (almost always) met deadlines for — 781 is a fairly big number.
It feels big to me, anyway.
After I submitted last week's column to my editor, I decided to do the math. My first weekly Post Bulletin column — about finally being asked to join the canasta table at my mother-in-law’s — printed on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2006. In the 15 years since that day, I've submitted 780 — now 781 — columns to my editor.
When I wrote that first column, I had a kindergartener, a preschooler, and I'd just found out weeks before that I'd landed my dream job. Then-managing editor Jay Furst had called me on the combination fax machine/office phone I’d set up in the spare bedroom. I remember leaping over a stack of Little Golden Books and dodging a trail of Matchbox cars to get to the phone before it woke my son from his nap.
“Jennifer Koski?” he'd asked. “Jay Furst at the Post Bulletin. I wonder if you might be interested in talking about an opportunity ….”
The rest, they say, is history. I ran down to our neighborhood gas station to buy two extra copies of the newspaper the first day my column appeared. My picture was in the top corner of the front page (“Introducing a new columnist…”), and it was all I could do not to say, “That’s me!” when the clerk rang up the sale.
I felt so lucky to be invited to share my stories, and the stories of my community and my neighbors. That feeling of good fortune and gratitude hasn't faded over the past 15 years.
Other things have changed. My two little boys are now in college. The Little Golden Books and Matchbox cars are tucked away in boxes under the stairs. The child who'd been napping during that first call turns 19 in a few months.
And if Jay Furst were to call me from the PB today … well, that would be kind of weird because he's since moved on to other work. But also, I wouldn’t be receiving his call on a fax machine in my home office. Partly because that home office now houses my older son's bedroom, as it has for that last dozen years or so.
Yes, much has changed. And more has happened in these years than I could’ve imagined. For starters, I couldn't have predicted back in 2005 that, nearly 15 years to the day later, I’d be writing my 781st weekly column while my boys were home on break … during a worldwide pandemic.
Or, frankly, that it was possible to think of 781 things to write about.
I couldn’t have imagined how grateful I’d feel for my readers — and for the connections and friendships I’d make through this little weekly essay of mine. How honored I’d feel when someone told me how much a particular column meant to them. How full it would make my heart to run into a reader, and have them tell me they never miss a single edition.
Every day since that first Jan. 4 column, I’ve felt privileged to be able to tell the stories that make up our lives — mine, and yours, and our community’s. Thank you for letting me tell all 781 of these stories, year after year, and column after column. Here’s to Year 16.
Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Tuesdays. Send comments to email@example.com.