By MATTHEW NASH
A little boy sat quietly in his room after finishing the homework that his teacher had assigned that day. He hadn’t said a word at dinner and his parents hadn’t even notice. Now he was just busy pondering whether or not that Christmas was really coming this year. He had heard some disturbing news on the playground at recess that afternoon and he wasn’t exactly sure how to process the information. He was wondering whether he was misled his entire life and was there anything left that he could believe in.
He had an older brother and sister that he could ask but he was sure that they wouldn’t give him the right answer, even if he could garner enough courage to ask them. His big sister had always been straight with him on most issues, oh she could play pranks and mislead him if the mood struck her, but normally she wouldn’t lead him astray. His brother on the other hand would gladly lie straight to his face just to make him look silly at the end of the day. He understood that the only way that he was going to get a straight answer was to ask one of his parents.
He had always been able to talk to his parents about important issues, but he wasn’t sure this time. It seemed that he was growing up fast and he wondered if his new revelation, when brought to his parents attention, would end Christmas as he knew it. Would this mean that he wouldn’t be getting any toys under the Christmas tree this year? He decided that the direct approach might be the best solution for his current dilemma.
The whole family seemed to spend the month of December on the run going from one activity to another. His father was a manager at a local retail store and wasn’t really around much around Christmas time. There was a dance recital, a couple of Christmas parties, there was practice for the Christmas Pageant, and then the pageant itself. There was tree decorating and lights to be put on the house. Mom liked to bake cookies to pass out to neighbors and to take with them when they went out to visit aunts, uncles, cousins and grandma and grandpa.
He had known for a few years now that the guy sitting in the big chair in the center of the mall wasn’t really Santa. He thought that the real Santa had to stay at the North Pole to supervise the toy construction ... that seemed like a reasonable explanation. He had asked one year after getting his picture taken with Santa and had realized that the beard that he had on was tied on around his ears with big rubber bands. Daddy had explained to him how important Santa’s job was and how he couldn’t be in so many places at one time, especially at Christmas time every year.
He finally got the courage to ask his mother one evening just a few days before Christmas. Dinner was over and his brother and sister were out of the house and his father had not gotten home from work. The little boy approached his mother as she was talking on the telephone. It was clear that she was busy making plans with one of her cousins about a Christmas gathering among the members of her family.
He stood there for a moment expecting his mother to notice so he could ask her his question. She was clearly making every effort to ignore him as he stood there quietly. Finally, he became frustrated so he tried to get her attention by clearing his throat and coughing, that’s when she became irritated and waved him away. He returned to his room unsatisfied that he wasn’t able to ask the question that had been on his mind for the last few days.
Christmas Eve was finally here and the whole family was getting dressed to go to a candlelight service at their church. The little boy sat quietly in the front row as his brother and sister walked down the aisle dressed as Mary and Joseph. His big sister took her favorite doll and wrapped it up and placed it in the manger that he recognized as the wood his father had been working on in his shop in the basement.
One by one the family was joined on stage by a group of shepherds. Then they were visited by three wise men baring gifts for the new born baby. Then a group of angels came in from every aisle and started singing. Finally the entire church became dark and a light from a single candle was used to light each of the candles that were passed out to every member of the congregation as they entered the sanctuary.
The little boy looked up at his mother and father as they shook their heads giving him the OK to hold the candle himself. In past years he hadn’t been allowed to hold the candle but tonight he was doing it. He was a big boy now and he could understand what was going on in the church around him. The world was changing and the little boy knew it. He was mature enough to understand these changes.
The next morning the little boy was the first one up and he sat there looking at the Christmas tree, surrounded by presents. He understood a little more about what Christmas was all about and decided he could wait another year. His parents could spend another year pretending because he knew in his heart that Christmas would come again.
— Matthew Nash would like to wish all of his readers a wonderful holiday season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.