When a letter showed up in my in-box from my seventh-grade science teacher, it took me by surprise. I havent thought about Mr. Erickson for 47 years. Seventh-grade was well, a long time ago. Exactly what possessed this fun-loving teacher with the scruffy beard to contact me Im not entirely certain.
Mr. Erickson included a photo of the Amateur Radio Club he had formed with a few of us a photo taken from an old yearbook page. My friends Bob and Tom were pictured on either side of me in the front row. We were the officers of this venerable club, early adolescent boys full of self-importance but short on social skills; in love with the acrid smell of solder but lacking the smarts of Steve Jobs, who knew when to leave Heathkit radio assembly behind.
In the yearbook photo, Eric stands enthusiastically at the left end of the second row. This seventh-grader lived with significant mental and physical disabilities. He was integrated into regular classrooms long before that was the norm or the law. With halting speech, twisted gait, poor coordination, and an intellect resembling a much younger child, Eric was the laughingstock of far too many in my school. To see his photograph now brings back some of the most troubling memories of my childhood.