vrijdag 31 december 1999

How I discovered my father was Sinterklaas

Translation of my Dutch school essay

At school we had to write an essay for which we could choose from a few given titles, one even more dull than the other. So I didn't know what to do. Until I found an other angle. 

How I discovered my father was Sinterklaas

I sat there warmly and comfortably. In my familiar place: on the pillow next to the fireplace.
Candy, a train… presents were laid out in front of me.
I felt comfortable like that, I often sat like this… listening to the silence.

Half an hour ago, when the neighbors were still there with their children, and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, when there was singing and scattering and when Bruno barked so loudly, then you couldn't really hear a thing, but now, now that it was quiet again, now there were again many sounds in the room.
The wood in the fire snapped.
Bruno sniffed the floor with his snout, looking for stray ‘pepper nuts’, gingerbread cookies.
Mother's knitting needles ticked for the loudest against the clock.
Yes, I felt comfortable like that, I often sat like that.

But still, this time, something gnawed at me. While I was dreaming like this, something in me had awakened. There was something that separated me from a perfectly wonderful evening…
I looked in front of me, at my presents.
I looked up, at my mother.
I looked around, and thought back to the Sinterklaas party.
How we had been waiting at the beginning of the evening: the neighbor man, neighbor’s wife, Peter, Johan, Ine, mother and I. And how we already had sung some songs around the fire.
And then he came in!
We had looked radiant and we had sung that we were all sitting up straight [well-known welcoming song for Sinterklaas]. And Sinterklaas looked happy and winked at mother…

Bruno had jumped up and barked angrily at Zwarte Piet, who had only managed to calm him down with a handful of gingerbread cookies. "But that's bad for his teeth!", mother had said. And then the gifts came, and mother prepared coffee and lemonade and we sang and we jumped and we were so happy… [like in the song] and Sinterklaas stayed extra long.

Now it was quiet again. I like the silence. I feel at home in it. But what was it that gnawed at me? What did I miss then? I searched in my mind. The neighbor man, neighbor’s wife, Peter, Johan, Ine, mother and me. Neighbor, neighbor’s wife, Peter, Johan, Ine….. mother and I.
Suddenly something snapped inside me.

"Mother…", I said. "Yes, boy?" she asked, startled. She felt the question coming. She had feared this question for years. Now she would have to tell the truth; the truth about father, the truth about Sinterklaas.

"Mother… where is my father? Why are we just the two of us!?"
"Oh boy", she said, one day you would find out. You are old enough to understand. How shall I tell you…?"

"It was on a bleak Sinterklaas evening, eleven years ago. Listen, there was a knock. A hard knock, a soft knock... [like in the song] a stranger probably, who was definitely lost... Sure enough, it was... well, a guest worker.... From Spain. And it was so bleak and cold… Oh and then…"

I heard it with mixed feelings. Shocked and happy at the same time. For the first time in my life I knew that I too had a father, even though my mother was not married.

"But why didn’t you get married then?" I asked. "Ah", said my mother, "that was impossible. It was a bishop. He is not allowed to marry. He was celibate…"

My mouth fell open. Only now did I fully understand: my father… was Sinterklaas!

Ytzen Lont, November 19, 1972
Dutch essay class 4 Mavo

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