Published On: Fri, Jun 26th, 2015

Happy birthday

Jacob Gelt DekkerEvery day, Facebook pages are filled with birthday celebrations, happy pictures, balloons, birthday cakes and best wishes. It made me think and remember my childhood birthdays.

The environment I grew up in never paid any attention the birthday celebrations. Only in school, I became aware that birthdays, only of special children, were celebrated as a great event. When I was about to turn ten, my dreams were so filled with anticipation, that maybe someone at school would mention it, that I could hardly sleep the night before the great day.

The next morning at school nothing happened, nobody said a word and I swallowed my pride and disappointment by acting as normal as possible. About a week later at the end of the school day, the schoolmaster formally mentioned that it had been my birthday and therefore I got the privilege to stay after hours to do chores, cleaning the classroom, watering plants and carrying out the garbage. I wasn’t sure that it was either a bonus, or a punishment but I duly did my assignment. It must have taken about twenty minutes.

At the end and before being releasing me to go home, the schoolmaster told me to sit down behind a little keyboard and play some notes. He pulled up a chair behind me and started to give instructions, while holding both my legs tightly in a firm grip with his big hands. Since I never touched a keyboard before in my life, what came out must have been quite awful. There upon the teacher got very annoyed, picked up a blackboard cleaning brush and started to give me a firm thrashing. He must have hit a little too hard since he knocked me unconscious. I do not remember much of the incident, only that I had to stay in a dark room for weeks with a concussion. What happened afterwards at school changed my life forever.

I learned that the teacher had been arrested and went to prison for a series of violent sexual abuse cases with schoolchildren. I was let off easily, the head master told me, but was never allowed to join a classroom ever again. For the rest of my school years, I was ostracized into a little side room, and not allowed to attend yard play, gymnastics, or any other group activity. In the morning and at the end of the schooldays, I was supposed to enter and leave the school building via a side door at different times from the rest of the school kids. At age twelve, initially no secondary school was ready to accept me, since I was labeled a “trouble child.”

Remarkable, how our world has changed.

Happy birthday kids!

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