I like to stand out. I like to be different.
Writing the buzz cut piece reminded me.
Well, getting the buzz cut reminded me. And then writing about it. For me, everything is two-pronged: the doing and the writing.
As a little kid, I was shy, but I liked to stand out. People don’t think those things go together. They think when you’re shy you want to disappear. But I was just particular about the ways that I wanted to stand out.
I hear that kids are supposed to be afraid of being different from other kids. And I’ve definitely had those moments, of course. But for some reason, there weren’t many of them. Instead, there was this fierce pride. Like a little unquenchable flame, just inside my belly, a tiny eternal light like the one that hung over the ark where the Torahs are kept on the bima. But mine didn’t have cobwebs like the one at temple.
“Why doesn’t the school bus pick you up in the morning?” my neighbor, Benny, asked me when I was ten. He sounded a little accusing.
“Because my mom doesn’t let it,” I said.
“My mom says you probably go to school at a special school. At your Jewish church.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t go to any school. And it’s not a church, it’s called Temple Har Zion.” I felt important.
Benny made a face at me that said, “you aren’t saying real words.” “That’s weird,” he said.
“Do you want to learn a prayer in Hebrew?” I said.
“Okay,” he said.
So I taught him the Sh’ma, the central prayer. Sh’ma yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad. I sang it. I convinced him to sing it, too.
I was the weirdest kid on our street, of course. Jewish AND homeschooled, in a town where no one was either. In a town where once the boys down the street cut a swastika in a nearby cornfield. So I don’t know why I liked to stand out. Maybe because I was always with my mom, and she was always comfortable standing out.