Dignity Breaks Your Fall

January 16, 2012
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Being a Jew, I’m one of the lucky few kids who had an hour of their life stolen from them twice a week because of Hebrew school, our equivalent of Sunday school. Sure, it wasn’t fun sitting there reading a foreign language, but one thing kept me and my classmates from losing it. The rabbi’s class was the eldest class. The class with the eleven, twelve and thirteen-year-olds. We longed to join the ranks of the “cool kids”. They were the ones who got dibs on the cookies and soda in the kitchen, the ones with the lime green swivel chairs, the lucky ones who got to watch The Twilight Zone and play games. They were in the fun class, and the two years we’d spend in it seemed almost destined to be great. Neither of us really thought about it until we hit the middle class, where we realized there had to be a better way to learn then what we were doing, which was reading the same boring things over and over. We really didn’t learn much, although I suppose our failure to pay attention didn’t help much. But still, we learned nothing. We were reading a foreign language. We knew how to read it, but we never knew what it meant. I had no clue about our culture or our history. Hanukkah was a nice time to light pretty candles and get presents. It was, to me, a Jewish Christmas. Passover was nothing but the holiday with the flat bread and the big feasts. I didn’t know what any of our scriptures or books were about. I couldn’t recount the ten commandments. And when asked if I knew who Abraham was, I’d say, “Abraham Lincoln?” Isaac to me was Isaac Newton. So clearly I learned nothing.


The year finally came when we hit the rabbi’s class. We were pumped, and for the first time excited to go to class. Well, that certain to be awesome first day wasn’t too awesome for long. There was an event going on, and they got the swivel chairs and the kitchen. They also had the TV, so no Twilight Zone for us. We had to sit at regular old desks with the dumb little chairs we had to sit in last year. It was still pretty fun, despite the loss of the great privileges we were supposed to have. I figured I’d make the most of the day, and believe me I tried. But if that day was destined to be great, then destiny has a messed up perception of great.

I was leaning back in my chair, enjoying every moment of my new class. And then, out of nowhere, I was falling backwards. I struggled to save myself, trying to latch my hands onto the desk or wrap my feet around the legs. But it didn’t work and I crashed to the ground, the clatter of my chair making it sound worse then it was. I sat up, dazed, just in time to watch my desk summersault through the air and slam down to the tiled floor. I must’ve accidentally launched it into the air with my feet. Well, I rose to my feet. With the adrenaline fading away, the embarrassment sunk in. The wooden part had completely disconnected from the rest of the desk and had flown to the other side of the room. My classmates were in hysterics. To them it had to have been the funniest thing they’d ever seen. Even the teacher was cracking up. Mortified, I took off towards the bathroom. I didn’t want to make it worse by crying in front of them.


Now, that still remains one of my worst moments. Although it’s a good story to tell now that I’m over the trauma of that day. It always gets a few laughs and a handful of attempted reenactments. And I also know now why adults always tell you not to lean back in your chairs. You might not crack your head open, like the victims in some exaggerated tales do. But that’s probably because your dignity breaks your fall.





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