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My Bar-Mitzvah

Every Jewish boy has one, but I was scared as hell my parents expected me to have a barmitzvah. My head throbbed with thoughts of escape for a year before the event. I couldn't stand up and sing on the high platform alone, the synagogue filled with people from near and far, for one purpose, to hear how I sang a chapter of the book of Isaiah and messed it up.

What would happen if I disappointed all those people. My first thought was for my parents. They had never hoped for anything spectacular from me, in the way of learning or sport. Now, just because I was 13 I was supposed to sing. They said it was tradition.

They knew the music teacher rejected me for the choir. This would be a million times worse. Didn't they worry about me dying of disappointment and shame at failing?

I always had high hopes of being chosen for something. No matter what. The music teacher, sat at the piano, in the cavernous school hall with me standing alone, my nerves giving me goose pimples. He played one note. With one note he knew I was no good and without even looking up, he waved me out. Another failure to add to my collection. Again walking away, my head bowed in shame and to hide my tears.

I kept my sadness to myself. I was sure, even my parents rejected me. I was thrown out of every sport team. if they were choosing players for tidly winks I'd be left out for that also. Not a single person expected me to succeed at anything. But nobody ever saw me weeping from disappointment.

No matter how many times I was turned down I obstinately kept up an appearance of being proud. Walking upright, my head high, I struggled, secretly against showing my suffering of being defeated. I kept this up for 40 years.

This time I was in for it. I would not be able to hide my shame at being a failing. Too many people would witness it.

I started barmitzvah lessons 6 months before the event. The portion I was to sing came from the book of Isaiah, "Surely the barren woman shall rejoice". " Surely the non-singer shall not sing" I thought. All my life a loser and out of the blue they expect me to perform like Frank Sinatra. I dreaded the fiasco ahead.

Daddy, my dear father, was at his wits end. His fame as a capable father was at stake. He had to keep up appearances of success in the face of my mother's family. They were a critical lot, closely observing the progress of the nephews and judging the parents.

I don't think he minded me being a failure, he had one son, my older brother, a genius. But a bar-mitzvah was a different matter. The dumbest of the dumb were expected to perform for the glory of the family.

The grim look on his face, showed he meant business. The music teacher on Mondays and the rabbi on Tuesdays. The one for singing, the other for reading.

The rabbi clunked me on the head and Mrs. Lonstein, a very calm lady, would walk up and down behind me, silently repeating Oh! Oh! Oh! From time to time dad would leave his shop to examine my progress.

The bar-mitzva boy was also expected to dance the first dance with his mother. Not aware of the pleasure she gave me, my dancing teacher taught me to hold her firm for the tango. Her soft breast pressed against my arm, I forgot everything I had endured. My only wish was for her to do it again.

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