Secrets that only children know
I knew a lot of cool secrets in my childhood. They say that there are secrets that only children know, and I knew 'em all, you bet.
When I was 4, I knew that a tiger lived in the wall-unit in the corridor. But she only lived there at night. And it was only there at one hour a night. I never knew which hour it would be in the wall-unit, so I was too afraid to go to the toilet at night. I tried to warn my parents so they would know better and stay in their rooms all night.
I learned this was a secret because nobody else would take me seriously, so I was the only one who knew it. Mum said that there were no tigers in our house and that I was just imagining things. Dad said that no tiger would be able to fit in the wall-unit cupboard. I was the only one who knew the truth. This tiger was a magic night tiger and magic night tigers can easily make themselves small enough to fit inside a cupboard even if it is full of videos. But then when they jump out of the cupboard, which they do whenever they notice someone's shadow pass over them, they grow to be a really giant tiger that takes up the whole corridor.
Finally, Mum and Dad moved the wall-unit into the lounge room. The tiger could not get into the wall-unit when it was in there and so I was safe. The tiger only liked corridors. The one-hour tiger lost its terror, eventually.
When I was 5, I knew that our garden was an entrance to Fairyland. I had it on good authority (more than one Enid Blyton book!) that a ring of darker grass is actually a kind of elevator that takes you down into magical caverns. And we had a circle of dark grass in our back garden!! There weren't any mushrooms around the grass but there was a dandelion and that worked really well. I went down the grass-elevator and found myself in an underground cavern that was built in the roots of a tree. Of course, I shrunk to much smaller than my normal size when I went to Fairyland. If I went in my normal body I'd be bigger than a Fairyland giant and I'd break everything, of course!
I used to visit Fairyland a lot, especially when there were no other kids around to play with. I learned a whole bunch of really interesting secrets. Did you know that the clouds are actually driven by fairies who ride on them and paint their edges with a silver lining? They have special shoes so that they don't fall through the cloud. And did you know that some elves are so tiny they live in spider webs (they are friends with the spiders, of course) and use the old spiderweb thread to sew beautiful clothes?
In fact, there are entrances to Fairyland all over the place, but that's a secret only children know. Adults are too big and too smart and so they can't see anything. But there was a little door in a gum tree in our garden, and that led down into the ground and then through all these sparkling lighted rooms made by the gnomes, and finally into Fairyland. And there was a patch of moss on the neighbours' brick wall, and if you touched it and said some magic words, that would take you to Fairyland too.
Then I started school, and we moved house, and somehow I couldn't find the entrance to Fairyland in my new house. There was no dark-grass ring and no magic moss and the gum trees had no doors at all...
When I was 6, I knew that some people could fly. I saw it on TV so I tried to do it myself. I jumped off the low fence in front of our house - a dozen times, two dozen times - holding my breath and jumping and landing heavily on both feet with my arms stretched out and my knees bent. Mum told me that people can't fly and that I would not be able to just by trying. Dad agreed, but said it was okay for me to try so long as I didn't jump from anything higher than our front fence.
They were just adults who didn't understand. I knew I could do it, and one day I really did, sort of. I jumped and for a moment - didn't fall - seemed to float, pause, suspend in mid-air for one second, two seconds - and then I was on the ground again. That was really, really exciting. I could fly too! I jumped up and down some more, trying to do it again.
I decided it just needed more practice, and soon I would go from staying off the ground for a second to flying up and up and up! But not long after that, Dad bought me a bike and I spent a lot of time trying to stay on it. I learned more cool secrets, like how to do wheelies without falling over, and which neighbours would give me an apple or other treat, and where to find a house that had painted faces on the driveway. I guess I just couldn't be bothered learning how to fly with all the other cool things going on.
When I was 7, I learned a really enthralling secret. I found out that there was more than one Father Christmas! I went to visit him with my little sister at the Magic Cave and I realised all on my own that was not the same as the Father Christmas at Westfield who we had seen earlier that day. (We had been doing the Father Christmas rounds that day. We wanted to make absolutely sure that he didn't forget us. If visiting Father Christmas everywhere he was is what it took to ensure we got maximum presents, that's what we did.)
This Father Christmas had a longer beard than the other one. His voice was a bit different. And he even asked "so what would you like for Christmas, Little Girl?" I was upset. If he couldn't even remember what I said three hours after I said it, how would he remember it at Christmas? Mum managed to remove me from the Father Christmas room before I could cause a scene. I thought about it all day afterwards and then realised that there was actually more than one different Father Christmases.
Of course there were! That made a lot of sense. It explained why Father Christmas could get all around the world in one night even though it's night while it's day on the other side of the world. And it explained why he had so many TV appearances and at the same time was in the Magic Cave and at the North Pole. They must have been brothers to look so much alike. And it was a secret that I guessed all on my own! I was very proud. Mum told me that I was right but that I shouldn't tell other kids. So I didn't tell - many - people but I felt very smug for the next month.
When I was 8, I knew that my friends and I were gonna become rich and famous. We neighbourhood kids had all the makings of success, and we were working really hard - we figured it would take at least four days to get ready to perform - so we could be famous circus actors. We had a swimming pool, and Josh could do really excellent dives. Tracey could do a mean hula hoop - more than four revolutions before it fell down! Lucy was teaching her dog to jump through a hoop using pieces of chicken. Trent had a trampoline and he could do a somersault in the air and only fall off half the time. No doubt about it, we had the talent.
This was a really cool secret. Peti was too shy to perform so she got to make a programme for our audience. I was the ringleader and I was the only one who could go around the whole pool on her knees on a bodyboard without falling off, so I got an act of my own to do that. Nick said we could use his backyard for the non-pool part of the circus, which was really good because he had a jungle gym and Lucy could swing around on those rings like an Olympic gymnast.
Anyway, we kept our secret really well - we wanted to amaze and astonish our family and neighbourhood with our spectacular stunts and skills. I don't think we ever actually did a single performance - after a couple of days, we went on to bubblegum tattoo competitions and planning a music concert and making a cake stand.
When I was 9, I knew that Trent and Nick were the ones who were responsible for the hole in the gardener's shed. This was a secret that all us kids knew, but none of us breathed a word. That secret was a secret pleasure - we knew something about something that anyone could see, but not everyone could know about. That gardener's shed was a source of endless fascination to us neighbourhood kids. It was like a tiny little house in the middle of the units and houses, and it stood apart on its own, on the way to the creek. We wanted to see what was in there - nobody lived in there - and there was even a toilet inside. We could see that through the hole in the wall. It was like a forbidden cubby house.
Tracey said that the gardeners were really mean. She said that they were tall and had beards and mean faces, and that they shouted at you and chased you if you went anywhere near their shed. This was another secret we kept to ourselves, and far from being scared by it, we used to hang around the shed in the hope of actually seeing one of the elusive gardeners. I don't recall ever actually seeing anyone but that did not damage our faith in their existence one bit.
Another secret of those days was a bushy corner of the playground - you could crawl in behind the bushes and it made an excellent tree-cave. No parent could ever find us when we went in there, so long as we kept really quiet. We couldn't make it a real cubby house though, because it wasn't in any of our gardens and you never knew when someone might find the cubby and steal your stuff.
Age 9 also knew the secret of the creek. This creek was out of the way - none of our parents had ever walked out that way - and it was horrible. We loved it. The water was low and green and full of algae. You could hear frogs but never see them, and there were always lots of bugs flying around there. Josh's big brother said it was contaminated water from the sewer, and we were thrilled. If our parents knew, they would have stopped us from going, so we kept it to ourselves and collected algae to feed Tracey's frogs and tried to catch wrigglies using empty soup cans. We rejoiced in the fact that we had found the only water supply in our whole suburb. A creek - why, that was almost as good having a brook or a river or a pond, like in a book or something - and especially one that hardly anyone knew about!!
Of course, childhood isn't the only time where you learn secrets. I know lots of secrets now. I know that Seph's period is a week late and she's too terrified to buy a pregnancy test. I know that Amy is only going out with Peter because she hopes he'll invite her to some exclusive party at the end of the year. I know Anna's boyfriend is cheating on her. I know that Michaela tried to kill herself three times last year. I know that my cousin Brian lost his virginity while drunk last week. He is 13 years old and now he walks with a swagger because he has 'beaten' all his friends. I know that Zach's father hits him around and Zach claims the bruises are football injuries. I know that Dominique pushes her fingers down her throat after every meal. When she gets changed for PE you can see her ribs, but she says she is fat.
Of course, the secrets that only children know seem stupid to adults. Adults can't see any truth in them, and they're rarely as juicy as the secrets that anyone can know. But... somehow, I think I prefer the secrets I knew before I grew too stupid to believe in Fairyland and Father Christmas and dreams.