My seventh-grade English teacher gave us a lot of creative assignments. I don’t have all the stories I wrote in her class because when I graduated high school, I decided to get rid of almost all my “stupid” school stuff. I regret that now… But there are a few stories I regret discarding more than others.
For one writing assignment, we were given a paper filled with images of various kinds of shoes. Many girls in the class chose the ballet shoes, or the ice skates, or the wooden clogs. I chose to write a story about an Egyptian sandal.
My story drew on what I had learned in school about ancient Egypt. My protagonist was a prince, meandering along the banks of the Nile when some court officers come to tell him his father, the king, has died.
I spent a fair amount of space describing his conflicting emotions of grief at his father’s death and euphoria that he was now king.
I described his walk into the throne room to begin his new duties as king. I included a detail that our teachers had been mentioning since we were old enough to learn about details of the Pesach story:
The palace was built with low doorways so as to force everyone who was entering to bend their heads, and to essentially bow to the images and idols surrounding the door. But when Moshe and Aharon, who were each six feet tall, entered, there was a nes and they didn’t have to bow down. My reaction to that story was typically to try to wrap my brain around the “alternative physics” of a doorway remaining the same size but allowing taller men to walk through without bending over. I was fascinated by the impossibilities of the miracle.
For my story about an Egyptian prince, I included one line about him entering the throne room. Since I wrote the story in first-person, the line went something like this:
“I passed under the low doorways and bowed my head, thanking the gods for all they’d given me.”
Proud of my work, I submitted my story. A few days later, we all got our stories back.
The teacher had whited out that entire line. There was just a gash of white paint across my words.
I was quite confused as to why I couldn’t use that piece of information in an English story. But I just quietly stowed the wounded page away among my papers.