Every person has salient dates on their own calendars. The obvious one is a person’s own birthday. Others include wedding anniversaries or other relationship anniversaries, holidays from that person’s faith and/or country, and other things.
Since I have never been in a relationship, the second one on that list doesn’t apply, but certain major events in my life are big on my calendar. July 21 happens to be one of those seemingly innocuous dates that has had a lot of memorable things happen to be–and two of these were on this date in the Pre-Journaling Era of Noah. The memorable things that have happened, particularly the first and last that I will mention, have led me to re-name the day.
Friday, July 21, 2000. This was the date corresponding to the Friday of my בר מצוה (bar mitzvah). The early part of the day, however, I remember little from. Before going to services, the family/out-of-towners dinner was at the Lincoln Embassy Suites in the room on the west side of the convention center hall, one door before the 11th/Q exit. My siblings acted out some skits of me, and it was great seeing family and friends, before services. I had zero stage fright once services started, although I could barely see over the בימה (bimah) even with a stool! Even though the majority of my בר מצוה ceremony happened on July 22, I essentially combine them into 1 day. I guess the better way to do it is to associate BOTH July 21 and 22, 2000 with 19 Tammuz, 5760.
Saturday, July 21, 2001. This was the last Saturday of my first time being away from home for any significant period of time. It was the “field day” known as Swampfest at the Duke TIP summer enrichment program at University of Kansas. There were several different competitions that we did, including sack races, piggy-back races, and other events that I can’t quite recall. We were all split into colored teams at the beginning of the day, and I remember that my team’s color was yellow… and the only yellow shirt in my wardrobe there was a polo… which I wore anyway. The most memorable part of the night was the final event… where we got several different parameters to create a skit. It ended up being a scene in an airport, and with the cue “clown,” I chose to be a clown who had forgotten how to cartwheel. My line, “Cartwheel, cartwheel, cartwheel” cracked up the audience, and we ended up winning that part of the competition!
Friday, July 21, 2006. This day was one day after Dr. Batelaan and I mutually decided that I was in over my head on the physics research that I had been doing and should resign from the lab, but the morning after, I woke up much happier realizing that it gave me new opportunities. (After talking with Dr. Gay and doing some personal soul-searching, I eventually applied to work in the Math Resource Center, which I loved.) However, the highlight of this day was getting a bike to replace the Cannondale which had gotten stolen on April 27 of that same year. It was a used Trek mountain bike, and was only $150 at the Used Bike Shop, which Dad had recommended. It served me well for a few years before I got the Dahon, and interestingly enough, a story involving the Dahon came up 731 days later!
Saturday, July 21, 2007. This was a very busy day for me. I had gone to services in the morning. I was the leader of שחרית (Shacharit–the morning service prior to the Torah Service), which I had gradually improved at leading–I did not lead it at my בר מצוה as that wasn’t common in my congregation to do. (In retrospect, I wonder if it would have gone well for me if I had tried to add it to my repertoire then).
After services, I went to League, which had moved to Saturdays from Fridays as of September 2006, and had a great time, going 5-2 despite the session being shorter for me. The “big day” part of it was that I also had the Cornhusker State Games for bowling. Interestingly enough, prior to this, the last time that year that I designated a three-activity day as a “Big Day” was December 16, 2006, when I went to services, won the Lincoln Pokemon TCG City Championship, and then headed to Omaha to watch the Huskers defeat the Cardinal for the volleyball national championship.
So, that was a good harbinger, maybe. Indeed, I did really well in my bowling early. There were three preliminary rounds, and I shot 167, 145, and 156 scratch in them. However, I had an 80 handicap, as I was bowling way over my head (my average prior to the day was only 130)! I got the top seed for the medal round, which guaranteed me at least the silver medal. So, I watched the match of Richard Lopez versus Derek Journey, and Derek sneaked it out by three pins, a handicap score of 186-183. Unfortunately, in the final, my magic came to an end. Though I managed to beat my average with a scratch score of 136, I was nowhere close to Derek, as he had no open frames and finished with a scratch of 202. The handicap differential was 80-53, not nearly enough to propel me to a win. Even my best round during the day would not have been enough! Still, it was very exciting, as it was my first medal in 8+ tries in the State Games, among bowling, chess, and golf.
Monday, July 21, 2008. As I said from 2006, there is a bike story involved with this day. So, I was in the REU at this time, but somehow managed to be able to work from home. Mom wanted me to drive the black Prius to the Toyota dealership in far north Lincoln, and as the possession of my Dahon was four days old, I definitely wanted to fold it and ride it. So, I took it in the Prius, and after dropping off the car, set up the bike and headed toward Hillcrest Country Club in order to play water basketball… as well as to stop by the office to say hi to Mom and Dad. The ride went down Havelock to Touzalin, and on Touzalin, I biked over a rock, which reared up and struck me in my left leg. I didn’t think too much of it, though it hurt a little bit. When I got a stop sign, though, I looked down and my leg was bleeding badly. Well, good thing I was heading to the office anyway!
Once I got to the office, as I walked in, Julie took one look at my leg and nearly fainted, and Shelley saw it and excitedly exclaimed, “We’ve got a bleeder!” She and Dad took me into one of the offices, and applied a numbing agent before sewing my leg back with stitches. Five stitches for a rock attack, when I had never required stitches before. I learnt that numbing is done by blocking the sodium channels in the neurons, which was exciting to me given that we were modeling this in my REU that summer. Furthermore, I was in no pain and was very calm throughout. That started the score as Noah 1, Rock-based injuries 0. (Of course, I had to forfeit my plans for the basketball game, which was the penultimate time that I took a loss that year, and the final loss was during the regular season.)
Thursday, July 21, 2011. I could describe it here, but given that I already have a blog post about it, I will simply defer to the post.
So, I have had several memorable July 21 dates that I can remember. Because of the ones that happened in 2000 and 2011, I have decided to name the day like a holiday: I no longer call it July 21, but instead עשרים ואחת ביולי [Esrim v’Achat b’Yuli] (a la ט”ו בשבט [Tu b’Shvat: lit. Shevat 15]) in honor of the two significant Jewish events that happened on that day.
So, even though the first memorable July 21 was the anniversary of my בר מצוה, some of the other events on that day have compounded rather than replaced the memory, and so it’s become a great day for me.