I tried, I really did. Once we were far away in different schools, I wanted her out of my life forever. It took several years until I was satisfied with my success. I was finally able to think of her without my blood boiling, and I rarely even thought of her at all. There was simply no reason to.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday, someone came up to me and said, "You went to the same school as Her, right? Well, She just got married!" To which I said, of course, "Wow! Mazal tov!" while thinking, in fact, "Boy, I wonder what he could have done to deserve her!"

I thought I'd forgiven her.
I guess I was wrong.
Won't I ever be able to do anything right?

Davening at last

You've read that I became a habitual faker when it came to davening, to the point where I didn't even think twice about whether or not to do it or say I did. But one day it all became too much. When my mother called me to go daven, for the tenth time that day, I spoke the words I'd been ashamed to utter for the last five years: "I don't know how." They almost didn't want to come out of my mouth, which was just fine because she wasn't expecting to hear them anyway.

I did a little crying and felt thoroughly pathetic. Then I let her take me by the hand and show me exactly what to do. It was ridiculously simple. It was also written plainly in the Artscroll siddur I'd gotten for my bas mitzvah, so the beautiful leather book went into temporary retirement.

It sounds cliche, but a load rolled off my heart that day. I felt sheepish and embarrassed, but it was worth it. It was even worth becoming, all over again, the very slowest davener -- this time for real.

Davening: At Home

Considering how much fun school isn't, I live for vacations and weekends. I'd like to just sleep all day, escape into a world with no impossible demands...

But I can't. Because there's my mother at my bedroom door, calling for me to get up. I crawl out of bed and lounge around a bit longer, but she insists that it's time to daven, it will soon be too late. After I'm already thoroughly sick of her nagging, I slouch off to a chair, open my siddur, and promptly space out. I love the smell and feel of this siddur, a special gift from my favorite aunt. It's much too special to bring to school where it will get worn too quickly, so it waits at home for these days off. Its pages are brand new, smooth and clean. I run my fingers over them and inhale the scent of the leather cover, but I never even try to read any of its beautiful, rounded letters printed in pure black ink.

An unbearably long while later, I go on with my day, hoping everyone will assume I've done my duty. Of course, my mother doesn't -- she asks. There was a time when this would offend me terribly, but I've gotten used to the lie already.

Although the habit develops easily, it doesn't stop it from taking a small piece of my spirit every time...

Davening: At Camp

Different setting.
Same game.
... Different players.

"Look, she doesn't know how to daven," comes the whisper from behind.
They don't know, I tell myself. The game is still on.
"See, she's not standing straight. Her feet aren't together."
They are too! I squeeze them closer together.
"Nope, not together at all. Tsk..."
My sneakers rub together. The only space is between the arches. They won't meet.
"Ha, she moved. She's not concentrating. You shouldn't be listening to us."
"She's blushing. Look, she's not even saying anything."
This is not going well. I can't wait for the next activity to start.

... I forgot that I'm going to flop at the activities, too.

Davening: Grade 4

New years mean new chances, and the fourth grade teachers don't need to know that I'm a lousy davener. We're more mature now, so singing the whole davening out loud isn't so important anymore. Instead of singing everything out loud, we start adding some new parts to our davening routine, in between the old out loud parts. There are no more sticker contests or marker charts. What a relief.

The new davening is perfect. All the extra in-between stuff gives me just enough time to say what I've always been saying. It's all pretty quiet anyhow, so no one knows the difference as long as my head is bent over my siddur and my lips are moving busily. When I hear the rustle of movement, I stand with the rest. When they sit, I sit. When they daven shmoneh esrei, I stand just close enough diagonally behind another girl to see what she's doing. Since everyone already knows I'm slower, I pause before mimicking her motions. It becomes like a game as I try to time myself perfectly so as not to expose my farce.

She takes three steps back and then forward again. I follow immediately.
She bows. I bow.
She bows again thirty seconds later. I wait another ten before doing the same.
It's another minute before she bangs her chest. I wait a minute and a half.
She's already banged again, it was two seconds after the first. I do mine about five seconds apart.
I finish "davening" about four minutes after everyone else, which seems just about right for the slowest kid in the class.
Another davening done without embarrassing myself. I've won the game!

I do not realize that I'm the biggest loser of all.

Davening: Grade 3

In third grade davening gets even more exciting when Morah Bauman announces that we're going to start learning Shmoneh Esrei. This, I think, is where being a little kid ends. Or at least it's a step in the right direction.

Every day right after davening, Morah teaches us a little bit more about Shmoneh Esrei. Only I don't know what she's teaching exactly because I'm always still davening when it happens. They keep saying that the more you practice, the better you get at reading and following along, but it's not happening to me. I'm still mumbling my way through shema when the lesson starts. And the more I want to hear what's going on, the longer it takes for me to finish. It gets to a point where I can't do either, and yet I can't do both. It's terribly frustrating because the longer I try, the further behind I get.

Eventually it settles into a sort of routine. Instead of feeling like I should be doing something else and getting all upset when I'm not up to the right place, I've just become one who sits on the side during that time.

Finally, after months of distracting practice, everyone gets to say Shmoneh Esrei on their own. When I finish shema, the classroom is silent. I look around at my classmates - they're standing, walking back and forth, bowing, beating their chests, swaying... I realize with shame that I have no idea what to do.

Suddenly I begin to have more "kavana" than ever - I pay extra attention to every word, enunciating even more slowly than ever and not skipping a thing. For the rest of the year, I finish shema exactly in time for the end of davening...

Davening: Grade 2

Every day during davening, I wait for the marker to land on my desk. If you get a marker, that means you were davening nicely and after davening you get to color in a space on your chart. Every time you finish a chart, you get a prize. Leah already got her first prize, a siddur keychain with her name on it. It's so cute that it made me want to finish my chart more than ever.

I don't know why I almost never get markers. I try so hard. I look in my sidur and don't fool around. The teacher says I have to sing louder and together with the class, but when I try my lips stumble over the words and they come out all wrong. And the girls go so fast I can't keep up. I don't think they're even really saying the words, it's impossible. But when I ask them to slow down they look at me like I'm crazy and then I get in trouble for shouting out during davening.
So I start off every day trying to sing along, then end up mumbling trying to keep up, then lose my voice and the class completely. Sometimes I get a marker, but not very often, and I'm not sure what the difference is when I get it or not so I don't really know how to get more.

At the end of the year, some girls are finishing their second or third charts, and I am almost finished my first but not quite there yet. The teacher calls me to her desk after class and dangles a blue siddur keychain with my name in gold. I want it, I want it, I want it! She tells me she knows I've been trying and I can have this now. I look at my chart and the four empty spaces, and I know it isn't true. I throw the keychain back on her desk and leave the room. I never see her or such a pretty keychain again.