Oh My Papa

Here’s this week’s memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club:

Everyone remembers that first inspiration or mentor in their lives that made them want to be or do something in their lives, whether you actually followed through with it or not. Tell us about that inspiration/mentor. How did they affect or change your life!

I’m always up in the air about whether to put these memoirs Under Loch & Key (fiction) or in The Inverness Press (bloggedy blog). It’s not fiction, but it sometimes reads like a story. Ah, well, I suppose it’s not terribly important where it goes!

“Is this you? The one we called Gargamel?”

At least, that’s kind of how the facebook message went. His name was just unusual enough that I could be pretty sure the man I’d found would be the music teacher I spent at least one hour a day, five days a week with for eight years of my childhood. Actually, it was seven, but I seem to have blacked out the year he spent in another state. He mentioned this absence recently, and I admitted I didn’t remember anything about him being gone. I just remembered there being some substitute guy for what seemed to be a real long time.

Apparently, my parents and I even gave him a going-away party.

Apparently, I am oblivious. Or, he was such a huge part of my life that a minor thing like a year away simply melted away as an insignificant detail.

I knew it was him when he messaged back, calling me a “smurfy little highland dancer.” Twenty years later, and how many countless other students (I could see on his profile he was still teaching) and he still remembered me?

I did not grow up to be a professional musician. That was never part of the plan. Yet the music department was a huge part of my life from fifth grade till the summer after I graduated High School. Lunch was usually spent in the choir room, hanging out with other Ork Dorks, Band Geeks, and Choir Gleeks. And then there were concerts, competitions, and other events.

I rarely saw the light of day when it was musical season. We did The Music Man in my Sophomore year, and Fiddler on the Roof in my Senior year. I was in the pit orchestra for one, and on stage as a dancer for the other.

I’ve no idea how he put up with us for all those hours. We weren’t bad kids, but we were exuberant and we had our share of little conflicts and issues and soap operas. I can’t count the ways he influenced and encouraged us. He was always there. I can’t list all the ways my music education enriched my life. An aptitude for math and comfort with public speaking, all due to my early and regular involvement in music.

The summer of ’89 we had him serenaded with “Oh My Papa”, and although it was with a certain degree of teasing humor on our part, it was also with heartfelt affection for the man who was like a father to us in many ways, for many years.

Thank you Mr. Grimm.

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1qnT4-js

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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7 Responses to Oh My Papa

  1. A very nice piece to honor a great man, it seems. I too wrote about a teacher. I can tell you, as the daughter of two teachers, memoirs like these are why they do it. My dad has more letters, notes, and mementos tucked away–they all add up to make up for the lack of pay. They let him know that what he did was worth it, no matter what.

  2. Jennifer says:

    This was such a lovely ode to Mr. Grimm. I really love that he was so much a part of the very fabric of your life that you refused his absence. And seriously? I love that you are still in touch with him.

  3. Mad Woman says:

    My music teacher, Mrs Harry, made an indelible mark on my life as well. She did not hide her impatience well but we loved her nonetheless. And isn’t it amazing how something we enjoyed yet probably took for granted enriched our lives?
    This post (and all of today’s #TRDC posts) is making miss those rose-colored days.

  4. Galit Breen says:

    What a wonderful ode to a wonderful teacher!

    I love what you wrote about him being such a big part of your life that little details -like a year away!- melded away.

    I hope he reads this. Thank goodness for facebook! 🙂

  5. He does know about the post (I shared it on facebook) and I think he read it.
    He commented on the link “I’m speechless”!

    He was also a fun teacher to watch. A conductor does more than keep time, he uses all kinds of signals and expressions and body language to coax what he wants from the orchestra. He was one of those teachers to whom we naturally gave our attention.

  6. Oh, this reminds me of where I work. The band room at school is always full of kids, and the teacher looks after them like they’re her little chicks. It’s nice to see this written from the other side, the student. It was a pleasure to read this. Over from TRDC

  7. Jackie says:

    I have to confess, as a former elementary teacher, I too am now facebook friends with a few former students & parents.
    It is amazing how the influence of the right person at the right time can be in a child’s life. It seems obvious that he was that for you.

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