I was an intelligent child. I know you might find that hard to believe now, but bear with me. I'm actually pretty smart (something I will prove once I stop crashing into things, topping up my wine with Ribena and dancing around the kitchen holding Roland in a waltz position and informing him through spoken word rap that he fills up my senses like a night in the forest. I just wish he'd let me lead for once) and that became obvious fairly early on.
My parents therefore treated me, on the whole, as a very short adult most of the time, but it meant that occasionally they would forget that I was actually a child. One particular memory stands out from this as what I like to think of as The End Of Innocence. We all have this - some instant from childhood where you suddenly realise that the world is actually not the glorious, happy place you thought it was. For most kids, this involves Santa, and I was no different. At the tender age of 7, I came home from school one day to find my parents standing about in our living room looking rather worried.
Me: Hi. Has someone died?
Mum: What? No! Just... sit down, will you?
I sat obediently.
Mum: Er... (looking with desperation at my dad, who was eyeballing the ceiling) Listen. You might have heard your friends talking about something in the playground, and we just wanted to talk to you about it.
Me: Like what? Like sex? People talk about that.
Mum: (horrified) No! Not that!
Me: Oh. What then?
She winced, as if waiting for an explosion. I stared at her in growing confusion.
Me: What about him?
Mum: Well. He's...um...he's....some of your friends might have said that, um...
Me: (gently) Mum. I know Santa isn't real.
Mum: (with immense relief) Oh thank god!
Me: Of course he isn't real! No one could deliver presents to everyone all over the world in one night. That doesn't make sense. It's ridiculous.
Mum: Right. Right. I'm so glad, we were worried you'd be upset.
Me: No. I've known for ages that you were lying to me.
Mum: (uncomfortably) Well see, the thing is, it's not a lie, exactly. It's something parents tell their children to make the world a better, more fun place. All these things, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy-
Me: Wait, what?
My dad, sensing impending doom with the trained instincts of a man born to survive, began to edge towards the door.
Me: (lip beginning to tremble) Did you say the Tooth Fairy isn't real?
Mum: (wild-eyed in fear) Um...
Me: How can the Tooth Fairy not be real? She brings me money! You can't just...I don't believe this!
Mum: We thought you knew! (looking at my dad, who by now has managed to edge almost completely out of the room) You come back here!
Me: (wailing) How can she not be real? Where do the teeth go?!
Mum: I kept them.
Me: (horrified) You KEPT my TEETH? That's sick!
Mum: Okay, this is not going how I thought it would.
Dad: I told you we should have got someone else to do it.