I am soooo embarrassed.
My kids called me over yesterday evening to watch with them on TV a quick history of the Winter Olympics Men’s Figure skating.
To be honest, I didn't want my kids watching, as I knew that there was the distinct possibility that certain footage from Olympics past would be shown. It's not that I'm paranoid, or even excessively self-centered, but I have worked so hard to get where I am now, that the old Olympics footage could totally throw my whole life into complete disarray.
Growing up, I loved the winter Olympic games; skiing, bobsledding, and ice-hockey were great fun to watch. But for me, it was the figure skating that I always loved, and so I convinced my parents to pay for lessons.
I was about six at the time, and of course, this created problems. Ice skating sessions on Saturday morning were obviously out of the question, and when I asked my Rav for a heter, he laughed in my face. I could ice skate all week, but never on Shabbos.
By the time I was thirteen, my coach felt that I was ready to be an Olympian. It was the day of my Bar Mitzvah, and the whole shul, bimah included, had been covered in a nice thick layer of ice. The Zamboni had already come through before services, and everyone was given ice skates upon their arrival. Yet that day, as I skated up to the Torah for the first time, I knew that I was incomplete. My coach was right. I was ready for the Olympics.
This was a sad day in my parents’ home. Of course, they had hoped that I’d be a Rabbi, or at least shomer negiah, but this? This was an outrage. Not only would I be figure skating, but there’s a good chance that I’d ultimately end up in the couples figure skating category, and I wouldn’t necessarily be skating with my spouse. But, I was only just thirteen, and a man for only a few hours at that time. So, they davened, threw some candy (which slipped all over the ice and tripped most of the guests), and then we all made kiddush.
Fast forward to the other night at Muqataville.
First they played the Olympics music, then a quick station break. Suddenly, there it was! Footage from about ten years ago. There I was, whirling around the ice like a pro, doing the triple clutz, the double schnauzer and other assorted flips and twists. I was skating to the Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy from Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.
My kids are totally enthralled... "Keep watching, keep watching!" and then it came...the close-up of my face and my attempt the spectacular -- an unprecedented leap quad oucho (whatever an oucho is). I leaped in the air and attempted to turn 4 times and land gracefully.
“Aba! That’s Aba!” the kids both yelled at once.
We all cringed in pain as the graceful landing turned into a catastrophic wipe out, with legs splayed split on the ice and the obvious agony on my face. My daughter the gymnast gasped, "Ow! That must have really hurt!" and I thought for sure, this footage would, if I was lucky, only ruin me in the eyes of my children, and not scar them for life.
“But Aba,” my daughter said. “I can’t believe you were a skater! I had no idea you were that athletic! The only time I ever even saw you run was that day that you were late to do the Daf!”
From where do people get such physical strength, to exert themselves beyond the normal limits of human endurance? I’ll be honest with you, I have no clue. After that horrendous fifteen seconds of fame, I knew that my career on the ice was over. I never wanted to do anything physically exerting again.
That day, I decided to become shomer negiah. It was pretty easy at the time, since nobody who’d even read about me in the paper that day wanted to have anything to do with me. A little known fact that few people know about me? Well, I used to be a Belzer Chasid, and after that disgraceful display on the ice, our whole family was ostracized from the community.
When I decided to make aliyah, I expected the government to call me up for army service. I was young enough to qualify, but the call never came. I went down to the ministry and asked about my army service.
“Jameel Rashid? The former Olympian? No service for YOU!” and they slammed the door on any hope I had ever entertained of serving in the IDF, not to mention my pinkie finger, which, to this day, still won’t bend correctly and hurts during inclement weather, which we in Israel, are thrilled not to have too often.
It would be melodramatic to say I held my breath while waiting for my kids to announce that they never wanted to see me again, but I was honestly thrilled when my kids simply said, “Aba, why would you pick Tschaikovsky? That is sooo overdone.”Whenever I ice skate, my blog holds my hand.