Interrupting childhood

She is sitting in class. It is a quiet morning and the teacher was teaching math. She is in second grade, and as usual, she is sitting on the third desk on the row next to the wall. Each of the three rows has six tables. The children are having their notebooks and pencils on the desk, each in the same corner. As the teacher Mrs Lindner is speaking, they are looking at her.

When the door opens, their faces move to the door. Three adults come in. Mrs Lindner interrupts her lesson and steps two steps towards them. They talk quietly with each other, still looking seriously. Then, Mrs Lindner turns around to the children and explains these strangers are here to see if some of them can join the rowing club in the South of Berlin. She asks them to stand up, next to their chair. The noise moving chairs fills the classroom, which had been quiet just a moment before. When they are standing and waiting for the next thing to happen, the strangers start to move along the desks. They do not stop at the first bench, but briefly at the second bench in the girl’s row. They look at Ivo now, her friend. “You. Go over to the window”, the woman tells him, shows to the teacher’s desk, and moves a step back to make the way free for him. Ivo steps away from his desk, filling the gap the woman has just made and without looking at the girl, he hesitantly starts to go to the teacher’s desk next to the window. The strangers come to the girl and Holger. Holger is three months older than she is but visibly shorter. The three adults do not look at Holger but at her. The woman, who was speaking to Ivo, points to her: “You. Go over to the window”, she tells her. She tries to read in her voice whether or not that is good news, but can’t find a clue. She doesn’t know what would happen to her, once she was at the window, but she finds some solace in Ivo being there and starts walking towards him.

The three adults are walking from one desk to the next and the little group grows up to six people. When the three adults have finished their round through the classroom, their classmates are allowed to sit down. The woman who had told them to go to the window tells them now to stand in a line. Feeling the looks of the others, with no hint on what would happen, they position themselves to each other. The two men from the group of adults walk behind them, in the space between them and the wall with the blackboard on it. “Lift your arms”, one of them says to Ivo and Ivo lifts his arms. “You too. Lift your arms”, says the second man to her. She can’t look at Ivo to her right anymore when as Ivo, she lifts her arms. Mrs Lindner and their classmates are watching them lifting the arms in silence. She feels the fingers of the man on her shoulder, moving up the arms, the elbow and the wrist.

“Bend forward”, he says, and a moment later, she hears the man behind Ivo saying the same. She bends forwards, assuming that Ivo would also bend forwards. Again, she felt the fingers on her spine, pressing her vertebrae one after the other, starting at the neck, ending at the hip.

“Alright”, the man behind her says. “Go outside and wait in front of the classroom.” Together with Ivo, she is leaving the room. Once the door closes, she asks him “What are they doing?” Ivo explained to her that it has something to do with rowing. She knows what rowing is – she learned it last holiday. She can already row the boat with her whole family in it. But what these three adults did has nothing to do with rowing, she thinks. The door opens and Stefan and Antje are coming towards them.

When the door opens again, not only do the last two children join, but also the three adults. In the dark hallway, they tell stories of the rowing club, about the boats there, and the water, and that they would teach them how to row very quickly. They chose them as they were tall, the woman says. They can become really good rowers as their bodies fit well to the sport. At this moment, the girl had no idea that her body fitted any sport. It had never occurred to her that in order to do a sport, one body was better suited than another.

… sheets…signature of our parents…camp…three days a week…

 Going back to the classroom: Mrs. Lindner doing math.

 -        Interrupting: Classroom routines

-        Interrupting: Me being in charge of my body

-        Interrupting: Not knowing about my body

-        Interrupting: Making my body an object of state interest

-        State funded sport.