Three Childhood Mysteries

A short list of facts revealed to (and concealed from) me when I was a little girl:

1. A bone is a delicious, juicy sweet.

I don’t remember exactly how my mother reacted when I told her, at the age of four or five, that I wanted to eat a bone. Thanks to all the illustrations in Tinkle, where dogs nibbled on bones regularly, I assumed they were nice, juicy, chewy sweets (much like Milk Chews, if anyone remembers them). I think she told me immediately that they were disgusting things that people didn’t eat- and to this day, I’ve steered clear of every kind of bone.

2. Aliens exist.

I have never for a moment doubted the existence of other creatures in the universe. I was six when one of the older girls in my neighbourhood told me that there were other “people” in space, namely aliens, who went around in flying saucers. I was very excited and thrilled, and ran home eagerly to tell my parents this fantastic piece of news. To my disappointment, they took it very calmly- they seemed to have known of aliens’ existence all along and never bothered to tell me. This was a bigger letdown than the bone. How I worshipped older kids back then; teenagers from my childhood still feel older than my adult self- they seemed to know everything!

3. A woman gets pregnant when she eats too much.

Willful only child that I was, I didn’t want a sibling, and kept turning to my mother for reassurance that babies didn’t appear from nowhere, but that it was too much food that got women pregnant. I believed this till I was about nine, after which I realised how silly the idea was. It wasn’t food, of course, but prayers. When a woman wanted a baby, all she had to do was pray. I knew pregnant women’s bellies grew, but I also thought they could just pray and they’d have a baby in their arms the next day. I don’t know where I got that idea, but I did believe it for an embarrassingly long period of time.

You see, these are the problems with growing up. First it is scientific facts, then a growing awareness of human nature and life, that disappoint you. Pandora, Pandora, why did you open that wretched box?

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