Soquel, California — Wednesday, November 30th

Curious questions

I was a very curious boy, always pestering my mother with questions. Mom was always straightforward and honest with me, answering each question diligently, although the answer I most seem to remember is:

"You're too young to understand, my baby. I'll explain it to you when you're a little older..."

And at the catechism classes at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Wentworth, Durban, I almost always stuck my hand up when Father Carey asked if there were any questions. There was always something that I wanted to know about God.

When I was about seven years old and the time came for me to make my First Holy Communion, I began to assiduously prepare for my first confession (you cannot receive holy communion in a state of sin).

I compiled a mental checklist of my venial sins...

I was mean (I called my sister a "big baby")
I was selfish (I would not lend my toys to my brother)
I disobeyed mom (I jumped up and down on my bed)...

and checked to see if I had committed any mortal sins by going through the Ten Commandments...

Thou shalt have no other gods before me
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
Honor thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill...

but I was baffled when I reached the sixth one:

Thou shalt not commit adultery...

A-dul-ter-y. What's adultery?

Mom would know. I went looking for her.

"Mom. Mommm!"

She was in the kitchen, doing something at the stove.

"Mom," I said, tugging at her apron, "What's adultery?"

Mom tried to fob me off with another one of her, "You're too young to understand" answers, but I wasn't having any of that. Not this time...

"No. I want to know: what is adultery?"

Mom knelt down so that her face was level with mine.

"Why do you want to know?"

"I just want to know, " I insisted, "what's adultery?"

Mom seemed uncharacteristically evasive.

"Well, if I 'made eyes' at another man..."

I began to make my own eyes at mom as I squinted in confusion.

"What do you mean, 'made eyes'...?"

"Well, um, if I, ah, looked at another man..."

My eyes went wide with wonder.

"You can't look at another man?!"

"See! I told you, you're too young to understand... Why do you want to know what adultery is anyway? Where did you hear that word?"

"In the Ten Commandments it says: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' and I want to know if I have committed it so that I can confess..."

Mom burst out laughing and grabbed me and squeezed me so tightly that my back bent backwards like a bow and my cheek squished up against hers and my mouth and lips twisted all funny and I could hardly breathe and my ears got hot and I could barely hear her saying,

"You silly thing! You can't commit adultery!"

And she was laughing again, and mussing my hair, and hugging me...

And all the while I'm, like, "What? Whaaat?!"

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Layout by iMonk — November 30th, 2005.