Balancing Self with Religion Advice - My 13th Summer

Written by Jon Sindell

"Which brings us to back to my 13th summer, the summer after eighth grade. Everyone in my new neighborhood was a Wasp, and I mean Wasp-Wasp, not a Jewish Wasp like where I grew up. Aunt Esther would come by to visit her little sister, my Mom, every weekend.

Mom was having a hard time with the move and the divorce, and me and my brother acting out. Aunt Esther would bring a load of food, like her brisket of beef and sweet cabbage, and a box of homemade sugar cookies. And of course she'd bring Sammy, 'cause she and Mom were still under the insane delusion that Sammy and I were friends.

"So this one day, about a week before high school was gonna start, we were out in the street playing football: Brad Saunders, this huge mouth-breathing guy Mark Patterson, and a few other guys who were gonna try out for the team. I was keeping my mouth shut, like always, when Aunt Esther pulled up in her dorky little Plymouth. Then Mom got the brilliant idea of sending Sammy out to play with us. As if we were still 10. As if it didn't matter who saw him.>

"And Sammy didn't like it any better than me. He walked out toward us with his head turned sideways, like he wanted his body to go on and leave his head behind; his legs were so loose, he looked like a mime walking into the wind. Of course he was wearing his Coke bottle glasses and yarmulke, and his supercilious grin, maybe slackened a bit. When he finally got out there, he looked at me, lost, and I looked at the ground and mumbled something about this being 'Sam,' not 'Sammy',  and certainly not 'my cousin Sammy.'

So Mark Patterson narrows his eyes, which are just slits in his beefy face to begin with, and says to Sammy, 'Hey, what's with the beanie?' like it's some great joke. And Sammy just says, 'It's a yarmulke.' Just like that! Like it's just the most natural thing in the world. Like, 'Hello, I've got a contagious disease. And how are you?'

"So we choose up sides, and Sammy's on my team. What a joke. He goes out for a pass, with his arms and legs flying all around, and stands there like an idiot waiting for the ball which, of course, bounces right off his chest! And I'm dyingof shame. Brad rifles it in there again, and the ball hits Sammy in the gut and knocks the wind out of him. He doubles over, sucking air, and the guys are in stitches and I'm laughing, too. Which Sammy sees.

A little bit later my team has the ball, and now I drop a pass. So now it's Sammy's turn. 'Nice play!' he yells at me. 'Klutz!' I mean, it's not bad enough he rubs it in, he has to do it in Yiddish! So the rest of the game, Mark Patterson keeps calling me 'klutz' every chance he gets. Funnyguy.

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