When we were younger, my brothers and I had no choice but to be studious. We were not allowed to play outside until our homework had been completed. Our homework, though, unlike that of most children, was not simply the exercises assigned to us from school; in addition to our school homework, my father made it a point to have us practice math problems regularly. I remember once, I was in kindergarten or first grade, and my dad said we couldn’t go out until we’d finished the pages he had marked. Mohamed is two years my senior, but in my dad’s mind a two year difference meant nothing; he taught both of us my brother’s curriculum. That day, I couldn’t figure it out and I was on the brink of an outburst, but Mohamed hushed me quickly. He knew that if my dad found out I was having difficulty solving the problems, we could kiss our chances of playing outside goodbye for the rest of the weekend. My brother quietly helped me and we eventually rollicked in the freedom of our front yard.
Back then, if you were lucky enough to be a kid coming to the Hegazi household for a fun visit with your friends, you had better make sure you studied first! My father quizzed all of our friends.
“Kerri!” I’m pretty sure he raised his voice just to scare the crap out of them. “What’s nine times seven?!”
If you were unfortunate enough to answer correctly, the equations gradually progressed until you were faced with something like “What’s the cubed root of seventy-two times eighty-three?” Our childhood friends are all in their late thirties/early forties now…and they remember these quizzes fondly.
Mohamed has always been intelligent. He wasn’t as studious as I was…he didn’t have to be. Here’s a story to prove it:
One day when he was in the eighth or ninth grade, he and his friends agreed to play hooky the following day. There were all still too young to drive, so I guess they were just going to hang around the neighborhood. The next morning came and he ‘left’ for school. My dad was still getting dressed, preparing to leave for work, when he heard a noise come from the bathroom. Was it a sneeze? An unexplained shuffling? A loud thud? I’m not sure, but something made him open the shower door, and there was Genius with his backpack in hand.
Why in the world he hadn’t waited in the back yard – where he would have been completely hidden from view! – until my dad had left, was (and continues to be) beyond me! But even though I thought he was a degenerate [that’s his favorite word…quite fitting, don’t you think?] I felt sorry for him…he was in for the beating of his life.
Funny, though…I don’t remember the beating. My dad had to get to work so he told Genius he’d deal with him later. But for the life of me, I can’t remember what happened that night. It’s possible that, despite my dad’s high regard of education, he remembered his own days of skipping school. It’s possible he let it slide on the premise of ‘boys will be boys.’ Maybe Genius remembers more clearly…but at this point, would you trust his judgement?
* Disclaimer: Despite the clearly unintelligent actions of my brother as a youth, he grew up to be a respected, successful dentist, masha’ Allah. Apparently it pays to have to do calculus mentally.