I learned to read when I was five. The book was Fun Parade, a collection of nursery rhymes and stories which various members of my family took turns reading to me.
I actually remember when the magic happened. I pointed to a word and asked my sister, "What does that spell?"
And Chris said, "The."
I saw it again, further down the page. "The?" I hazarded.
And that's when it all fell into place for me. T-H-E spelled "the" no matter where it fell on the page. Even on another page, on every single page, T-H-E spelled "the". What kind of miraculous system was that?!!!?!?!?
There was no stopping me after that and by the end of the day, I was reading entire sentences. My parents had to practically rip the book out of my hands to get me to go to bed that night.
The next day was a Sunday. And in our house there was a strict protocol for Sunday mornings. We were Catholics. We went to Mass. And we had to fast for an hour beforehand. You'd think that rolling out of bed and heading to church would work, but if we didn't eat something, there'd be fainting and tears.
So Mum would wake us up really early, with cups of tea and a cookie. Then we'd get through the bathroom, get dressed and assemble downstairs before walking as a group to church.
There was no variation.
Except that morning, I had to find out if it still worked, if "T-H-E" still spelled "the". So very carefully, I tiptoed downstairs, picked up my book, and, almost sick with the fear that the magic had disappeared, I opened it.
There it was. T-H-E was still "the", C-A-T was still "cat". The magic still held!
And, do you know, to this day, I can still get thoroughly distracted by the wonder of it all. Even now, forty-two years later, that T-H-E still spells "the" can still leave me almost giddy with delight.