Life in Review: Teenage Years
By my early teens, I was already quite fat. Everything I ate and drank had sugar in it. I ate cereal from salad bowls and drank mostly soda and chocolate milk. I thought my dad was crazy to drink water. One winter day, after playing outside in the snow with my little sister and some friends, I took a bath. While I was in warming up in the bath, I discovered stretch marks on my legs. It’s a mess down there, but at least these days it’s mostly covered up by hair. Stretch marks on my torso and arms are quite visible, though. I was embarrassed by them, so I always wore t-shirts when I went swimming after that.
Although I spent a lot of time getting fatter while playing video games, I also enjoyed playing outside. My dad taught me to ride bicycles and played catch with me when I wasn’t playing with friends. I was pretty good at tag. I played some baseball and basketball. I wasn’t great at any of the sports I played, but I was alright. It was clear I wasn’t the next Babe Ruth.
My parents grew up as Christians. They both met in church on Sunday morning. My mom was alone with her three daughters, so my dad sat next to her. Later he invited her over to his farm to show her daughters his baby goats. They were not successful farmers, but my dad ended up getting into programming in the very early years of computer technology. My parents have had to satisfy their love of botany with small gardens over the years instead.
Over time, they decided to convert to Judaism. I spent most Saturdays with my parents while they prayed and talked with others like them. Later, I joined them. For a Jewish holiday one year, kids in my parents’ study group participated in a stage play for a small audience. I had the lead role. At a critical part of the play, I forgot my lines. I froze up and couldn’t really recover during that scene. I didn’t appear to have a bright future in acting.
The path my parents took on their spiritual journey later created some very difficult personal challenges for them and me. Judaism is a religion of rules. One of the most important rules in Judaism is the rule that Jews are only allowed to marry other Jews. That rule was not a big problem for my parent, but it would later become a significant problem for me.