I can’t be expected to remember the reason I was late for school that day but I was late. When you’re in Pre1-A it’s not your fault when you’re late, it’s your parents fault so it doesn’t really matter why I was late. I guess if I had had to come up with a good excuse for my lateness it would have remained in my memory ’till today but being in Pre1-A has its privileges and not having to come up with excuses for tardiness is one of them so I’ll never know why I was late that day.
Well here I was, walking meekly into class, seeing everyone sitting in their places and the rebbe with his extra-long white beard that came down to his belt standing at the chalkboard pointing at a new letter that they hadn’t yet learned.
“Shhh, nobody tell Shragi what letter this is, Shragi what letter is this”?
Now, like most kids, before Pre-1A I had already learnt the alef bais in playgroup, since entering the cheder I had always felt this weird sense that no one was listening to me when I said I already learned this stuff, now it was confirmed: I saw a מ on the board as clear as day and he’s asking me what letter it is? Haven’t I told him a hundred times that I know the alef bais already? So in my most matter-of-fact tone of voice I answered “mem” while I shrugged my shoulders lightly, scrunched my forehead up just so and gave him a quizzical look with my eyes, this combination is a segulah for communicating to people that you are puzzled by their behavior. I was puzzled by his behavior, I had surely told him on many occasions that I knew the alef bais already why was he still bothering me with these silly questions?
He hadn’t heard my protestations before and he didn’t hear me this time either; “very good Shragi, now go sit down”.
And just like that another nail was knocked into my 5 year old heart.
One of the lessons I took with me from childhood to adulthood is the understanding that you cannot fool children, children have a sixth sense for truth, kids also have a very incorruptible sense of right and wrong. It’s certainly possible that I hadn’t communicated effectively the fact that I already knew everything we were learning that year, based on the above performance you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking so, but it’s more likely that I did use my words in earlier efforts because that’s my usual style but they went nowhere.
This incident didn’t last more than 20 seconds and I shouldn’t remember it. But I do. Am I more sensitive than most? Is it really because I felt like I wasn’t being listened to? Is it because I felt my intelligence slighted? I don’t know.
I don’t remember why I was late that day but do remember feeling slighted; In Pre1-A.