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Lifetakes: Winner

Esther Kurtz

I always worried and wondered what sort of mother I’d be. I’m a little impatient — make that very. Multisyllabic words are my favorite kinds, and I have a low tolerance for mindless stupidity (which is the Webster definition of children, right?)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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Ialways worried and wondered what sort of mother I’d be. I’m a little impatient — make that very. Multisyllabic words are my favorite kinds, and I have a low tolerance for mindless stupidity (which is the Webster definition of children, right?).

I had one comfort, though: I was an awful kid, and I have a million stories to tell. I figured at least I’d always be able to relate to my kids. I’d comfort them when they were down, be there for them, support them — the good stuff, the stuff that really counts.

I never won an award. By now, it’s almost a boast, because I think I turned out all right, and look what all those teacher and counselors didn’t appreciate. Growing up, though, it was very painful, especially as I didn’t realize I wasn’t the type of girl who won awards.

I remember the last night of camp, when they gave out the awards. “Best in Bunk” was awarded a siddur. It was my first year in camp, a freshie just coming out of fourth grade. My bunk sat on the bottom left-hand bleachers in the social hall.

“Please, let us know whether you daven nusach Ashkenaz or Sefard,” the camp director announced. I turned to a staff member sitting next to me.

“How do I know what I daven?” I asked.

“Do you think you’re best in bunk?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I said. And in my head I thought, Why not? Maybe? I had loved camp, become alive there. Of course it would love me right back.

“Or maybe you’re the best in davening?” the staff member asked.

Again, I didn’t know, but they both sounded right. I started to get excited. “What nusach should I tell them?” The announcements were about to start and I needed to know now!

“You’ll worry about it if you need to,” she said. I didn’t need to. They gave the award to a different girl, and almost 20 years later, I still remember her name — I actually met her sister recently and the award was all I could think about. 


In camp, six years later, I thought I had a chance at Best in Shiur. I was super engaged, involved, excited, and my older sister was good friends with the shiur counselor — I thought that would help me. But not even nepotism could save me. The award was given to my best friend instead. Clich? or not, I wept.

This was the legacy I had to offer my children: Sure, I was hurt and underestimated and forgotten, but I’m awesome today, and you’ll be too! Awards don’t define you — you define you!

But my son came home today and told me something that made me cry out of nachas and frustration.

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