He helped me spread out my wings and taught me to fly..
For me the 1973/74 school year is one I will always remember fondly.
I was incredibly shy back then – painfully so. Up until the 5th grade my only wish was to blend in, to be invisible.
But Grade 5 would change all that. Grade 5 would give me an opportunity to spread my wings.
Enter Mr. Schachter – a 28 year-old, long and curly-haired, brilliant and unconventional teacher.
Eric, as he insisted we call him, brought me out of my shell and taught me to love the Arts.
While all the other teachers focussed on the 3 R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), Eric inspired us to write long and imaginative compositions.
He taught us to play musical instruments like the autoharp and guitar.
Other times we would sit and listen to records with our eyes closed and once we had a dancing contest, in which I won a 45 – Smokin’ in the Boys Room.
I also joined the after school video club where we created animated films by shooting a few frames, changing the position of paper cut-out characters or clay figures, and then shooting a few more frames and so on.
Or we would make people appear or disappear using the same method. These shorts films were magical and so satisfying to create!
My favourite memory though, has to be the Christmas play we produced.
We had been divided into groups of 4 -6 kids and each group was tasked with the responsibility of creating a short skit that portrayed what Christmas meant to us.
My group did a family scene. I was the mother and Mr. Schachter was thrilled with my costume, saying he knew he could count on me to come up with something excellent.
I had stuffed one of Mom’s bras and wore a turtleneck, skirt and low-heeled shoes – that’s what Moms in the 70s looked like, right?
All the groups had practiced our skits but none of us knew how the play would come together. All we knew was our own skit and that we would all sing a song we’d practiced in class at the end.
When the stage curtains opened on the night of the play, the audience was greeted by none other than God (a football player-sized black boy who blew a big Bazooka Gum bubble)
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that Vance, who played God, improvised his entire part.
One-by-one our little groups went out onto the stage and performed our skits and Vance, a-hem – I mean God, would share his thoughts about the goings-on after each group was done.
In the end, the theme that had threaded itself throughout the play was love.
When you strip away everything else – love remains.
Then we sang our finale – All you need is love by the Beatles.
It wasn’t a traditional Christmas play. It wasn’t what our parents were expecting, I’m sure.
Later I’d learned that Dad had turned to Mom and asked who that guitar-playing hippy was.
“That’s Diana’s teacher,” Mom said.
To which Dad just raised his eyebrows in bewildered amusement.
Many times since then I’ve searched for Eric Schachter.
You see, he left before the year ended. I’m guessing he was a little too unconventional for some folks at that time.
I can still remember the Monday morning that we showed up to find the Vice Principal was our substitute teacher.
He didn’t tell us why…
only that Mr. Schachter was gone and that he had left a little something for each of us in our desks.
I reached into my desk and found a Neil Diamond Album. It came with a card.
I was thrilled to find that I’d kept this card!
I’d send you a horse for Christmas but I can’t find a big enough envelope. I’m sure that you have had a good year, you are a person who is strong and able to make the best of life. I often see your warm and smiling face in my imagination. Even if we never meet again I shall always feel for you and be wishing God to smile down on you. You are probably as tall as me by now, and a lot prettier!
All my best wishes for the new year and the changing seasons.
All my love, Eric
I still google his name every now and then but remain unsuccessful in my search.
Eric Schachter, if you’re out there somewhere and happen to read this post…
I just want to say THANK YOU for helping me spread out my wings and teaching me to fly.
~ HUMP DAY CHRONICLES ~
There are people who like angels come into your life for a brief time yet manage to colour your world beautiful and change your life forever.
I’d love to hear about your angels in the comment section.