Our family belonged to a very tightly knit Lutheran church, nestled deep in the Indiana countryside. It had beautiful, stained glass windows behind the alter. It's where John and I got married. (This photo doesn't do it justice.) And everyone in the wedding party will never let us forget that the church was not air conditioned either. But who knew it would be 95 degrees with 95% humidity in the middle of June?
Anyway... When I was around 8, or 9, I was friends with the Pastor's family. Mary was younger than me and Robert was a little older. Robert was a typical PK - Pastor's Kid - ALWAYS in trouble for something. Mary was just a sweet little thing, with posters of David Cassidy covering the walls of her bedroom. Their house, of course, was right next to the church.
Now, I know that by the time a person nears the age of double digits, they should probably be past the point of believing in Santa Claus. I wanted to stop "believing," but did not want to jeopardize the booty, as it where. I was coasting until further proof presented itself.
And it did.
We went to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. That has always been my favorite service of the year. All the lights are out, everyone holds a candle, and sings Silent Night. It's the best. If you're not moved by that, well, then not much will get to you. Everyone was there that night - including the pastor and his entire family.
Right after service, Mary went home for some unknown reason. She came running back, full of excitement and reported the news: Santa had come to their house during the service.
How could this be??! Her entire family was at church. Nobody could have slipped out to put the presents under the tree - they all sat in the first row of pews!!!! I had the proof I was looking for, but with an entirely different outcome.
I was closing in on 10 years of age and had no choice but to still believe in Santa Claus.
I believed for quite a while after that, but kept quiet about it too. I would liken that feeling to being a Lutheran in general - even though I belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, there is not much evangelizing going on. (We're not called the "frozen chosen" for nothing. We tend to keep our mouths shut about our beliefs.)
I can't remember when I figured out that one of the PK's grandparents probably lingered at the house for a few minutes, did the deed and then came to the church.
I was not the brightest crayon in the box.