Coming of Age

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the characters, places, or events to anything in the real world is strictly coincidental.
Copyright © 2014
Henry E. Neufeld

“We can’t let Sam turn 16 without the proper ceremony,” said Elsa. “A young man’s 16th birthday is a very important event. It must be done right.”

“We can’t afford much,” said Zeb.

“There are certain things that must be done, no matter what the cost!”

That silenced Zeb. “Things that must be done” were beyond argument. So he started to work on the list.

And the day of a young man’s 16th birthday was very important in their town. It was a coming of age. People would judge the young man by the quality of the ceremony. If the day passed unnoticed, so would the young man. Or at least that’s what Elsa thought. No, “thought” was not a strong enough word. Elsa knew this. It was engraved in her mind and her heart. She felt it in her bones. She must put on the proper ceremony for Sam. Anything else was unthinkable.

So the tension in the household grew. Elsa was unable to conceive that Zeb might consider something other than the full ceremony she planned for her first born son’s 16th birthday. Zeb simply looked at the diminishing size of his purse and wondered how they were to pay for food for the rest of the year. His reserves were gone. The slightest reverse in his business and he’d be gone. He tried to tell Elsa that there was no more money.

She took the money he had provided for food for the coming month and threw it at him. “Even if we don’t eat for the rest of the year, my son will have a proper ceremony for coming of age.”

The husband and wife looked at one another across their small living room, neither capable of understanding what the other was saying.

Into this brittle silence walked Sam.

He looked from one parent to the other. He saw that something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He had paid little attention to the coming of age party. Yes, it was an important step, but he hadn’t thought about costs. He had been busy …

“Mom, Dad,” he said, “I’m leaving tonight. I have an apprenticeship with a blacksmith who lives across the mountains.”

… coming of age.