I remember an art project when I was six years old. The teacher handed out felt pine trees that we glued to burlap sheets. Everyone then attached little pieces of colorful material to the felt trees. Everyone except for me as I was only allowed to use plain white pieces. I did not know why. I only knew I did not belong.
I remember the third grade where I sat near a girl I liked named Tenniel. She watched as I couldn’t participate in birthday treats. She observed as I was banished to the library during holiday parties. Shortly before Christmas she passed me a note. Excited I hurriedly read it. The note read “I am sorry you are Jewish”. I didn’t know what being Jewish was. I only knew I didn’t belong.
I remember riding in the car with my sister and mother. My mother drove us to an old dilapidated white house near downtown. The house always had a peculiar smell and was always filled with strangers. As my mother ventured off and left us all alone with the strangers I never knew why. I only knew we didn’t belong.
I remember when I was ten and my mother would come home with different men. They would stay in her bedroom all night. I was forced to scour the kitchen cupboards trying to feed my sister and myself. I didn’t know why it fell on me. I only knew we didn’t belong.
I remember being one of God’s chosen people standing on a street corner every Saturday morning. As I peddled the unwanted magazines all alone no one paid me any mind. I didn’t know why I got up so early every Saturday. I only knew I didn’t belong.
I remember standing around the back of the Kingdom Hall after every meeting. My hands in the pockets of my burgundy suit paints while I pretended to read the bulletin boards. Over and over I studied the same assignments so no one would see how alone I was. I didn’t know why no one cared to talk to me. I only knew I didn’t belong.
I remember my first year of middle school. As the boys tried to make sense of their changing bodies they asserted dominance over others. I couldn’t protect myself the day I was punched in the chest. Holding in the pain and the tears I knew that Jehovah wanted me to turn the other cheek. He said that “an answer when mild turns away rage but a word causing pain makes anger to come up”. I didn’t know who authored that proverb. I only knew I didn’t belong.