The “S” Word

Like all God-fearing families, there were things my parents simply did not discuss.

Things like the “S” word.

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But the world being the secular playground that it is, there’s only so much sheltering a Christian parent can maintain. That proverbial snake will sneak its way into your Eden, no matter how vigilant your watch!

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By age four, the “S” word had become somewhat of a hot topic among my peers. Everyone seemed to have something to say as theories and hearsay were casually exchanged over hopscotch and freeze tag.

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Typically, it was children with older siblings who dominated the conversation, claiming to hold the keys to this mystery.

The “S” word was magic!

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The “S” word was just a part of life.

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The “S” word is what your mom and dad do late at night.

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At this point, my burgeoning curiosity was just too much to be stifled a second longer.

God-fearing or not, I had to know!

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I worked up some courage, then burst through the bathroom doorway where my mother was trying to scrub the ring out of our bathtub.

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“Mom…?” I blurted out with a slight tremble.

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“…is Santa…real?”

My mother whirled around in surprise and our eyes locked awkwardly for a moment.

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My mother must have known that this conversation would surface someday as we had silently walked past Santa Claus in shopping malls and department stores, always diverting our gaze and ignoring him like a beggar on a street corner.

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But I had said the name we do not say, and now there was no turning back.

My mother sighed softly and replied, “Santa…..”

She paused, choosing her next words carefully.

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“Santa…died.”

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My small jaw dropped.

“What happened…?” I asked, like a frantic rubbernecker trying to see the pile-up on I-5.

“Well…” my mother continued, “He lived hundreds of years ago. He just… you know…grew old and… died.”

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“But I saw him…yesterday…” I stammered.

“It’s just a game,” My mother looked at me sympathetically now. “It’s just a game grown-ups play. We pretend he’s alive and that he gives us things. But we all know he is dead

I had mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I had never “believed in” Santa, so it wasn’t like I had lost anything. My Christmas would not be any different from last year. Nor would future Christmases be any different.

On the other hand, I was just informed that someone I see in front of every shopping center is…dead.

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I plopped myself in front of our Christmas tree and thought for a spell.

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So much to think about. So many truths, lies and really, really old stories to ponder.

That’s when my eyes fell on our family nativity scene.

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I stared at the Virgin Mary, Joseph and the three wise men.

Then at the tiny baby Jesus who was sleeping in a bed of hay with his arms awkwardly stretched at the sides like a teeny, tiny cross.

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And then another question popped into my head.

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I quickly jumped up and scampered down the hall.

“Mom?” I asked as I once again burst through the bathroom doorway.

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“Yes?” She answered with a tired sigh.

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“What’s… a ‘virgin’….?”

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