This took place three years ago when my now-6 year old daughter was turning 3, and made her famous (infamous?) at my hair salon.

My daughter, E, is very smart, very articulate and very creepy – as in, she loves creepy shit. The first time she heard thunder, when she was about 20 months old, she excitedly asked me “Is that ghosts?” I didn’t even know she knew the word “ghost”, let alone what it might be. When she was 2.5, she saw me lighting the candles on my husband’s birthday cake. Her eyes widened as she looked at the flames, and I could see her catch her breath. In a low voice trembling with anticipation, she asked “Are…are we having fire?” No, you creep, we’re having cake! An argument we had when she was 2.5 about why I wouldn’t paint her bedroom black has become the stuff of legend in my family. Her weird observations and statements happened pretty regularly, and were often quite hilarious (for example, in our partially-finished basement the pink insulation was held in place by taut, clear plastic. Once, she went up to it and began lightly stroking the plastic. She turned to me and asked “Is this meat?” Not creepy per se, but gives you an idea of how her mind works).

Her love of the dark side isn’t learned or taught; we don’t listen to Norwegian black metal or decorate with skulls. We don’t even watch scary movies! It’s an in-born aspect of E’s personality that always been part of who she is, and well, most of the time, it’s pretty funny. I started writing Facebook updates about the adventures of Goth Toddler, and the nickname stuck. For E’s 3rdbirthday, she requested a Halloween party, which endlessly amused all my FB friends (“Goth Toddler be gothin’”), but was actually a real pain in the ass, because – surprise, surprise – it’s really damn hard to find Halloween decorations in June.

A week before her birthday party, I was at the salon getting my hair done. I’d had to bring E along, but one of the other stylists didn’t have a client during my time slot, so the she was hanging out with E in the waiting area, keeping her amused. My stylist has a son close in age to E, and we always chat about our kids, so I’d told her a few Goth Toddler stories. I was regaling her with the saga of trying to hunt down Halloween decorations for the party. We were laughing and joking, like, “What kind of kid wants skeletons at their 3rd birthday party? Lololol!” E and the other stylist were happily flipping through magazines and chatting about the pictures. There was a momentary lull, when neither my stylist or I nor any of the other clients were speaking.

It was in that moment that E, in her loud, clear three-year-old voice that carried across the entire salon, said “WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL I DIED IN THE WATER.”

The whole salon went dead silent. No talking, no snipping of scissors, no rustling of the capes. I’m pretty sure everyone had just sucked in their breath and was holding it. In the mirror I could see everyone standing still, magazines half-flipped and hair still curling around brushes. Stylists and clients alike were just staring slack-jawed at E, who, completely unperturbed, continued flipping through pages and chatting about the pictures completely oblivious to the fact that she had just freaked out an entire salon full of women. I felt everyone’s eyes slowly shift to stare at me, like “What the hell are you teaching your kid?” I was just as shocked as everyone else, and I felt my face rising to a nuclear shade of red. As the seconds ticked by and it was clear no one knew what to say, to try to break the tension I nervously chuckled and said awkwardly “Ha! Ha! That’s the….Goth Toddler…for ya…ha…ha….”

Slowly, the stylists went back to washing and cutting the other clients’ hair, but conversations remained muted, I’m sure because everyone was straining to listen in case E said anything else creepy. I left the salon knowing that as soon as we walked out, the conversation would erupt into a dissection of what the hell had just happened, and I wondered if I could ever show my face there again.

I thought about what had happened off and on for the rest of the day. I didn’t ask E about it, because a) hell to the no, and b) at no point did she make any reference to what she had said. I wondered if she even knew that she’d said something unusual, and if she didn’t, I definitely didn’t want to remind her (or hear any details she may have to add to the story). Laying in bed that night, I told my husband what she had said. I told him in a “Wasn’t that crazy/hilarious/unbelievable?” kinda way, but he was much more freaked out and told me he didn’t want to hear any more about it. I lay in bed, going over the afternoon once more in my mind. Had E seen something on TV when we weren’t paying attention? Was there a drowning death mentioned on talk radio while we were in the car on the way to the salon? What did she mean by “When I was a little girl”? Would this be the most popular Goth Toddler FB post ever? I was a bit unnerved but not especially upset by what she had said, but then HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIIIT!

Like some clichéd scene from a movie, I sprung upright in bed, heart racing, hands trembling, starting to sweat. My husband jumped up too, thinking something was wrong – and there was, but not with me.

What had scared me so badly was the sudden remembrance that on two separate occasions in the past month, while I was rinsing out her shampoo in the bath, she had begun screaming and frantically trying to climb out of the tub.

Both times as the water poured through her hair, she had screamed “I’M GOING TO DIE IN HERE! I’M GOING TO DIE IN HERE!”

So, yeah.

It’s one thing to know your kid is a black/fire/ghost-loving Goth Toddler, but nothing can prepare you to have your curly-pig-tailed, freckled little daughter tell you about her death (in a previous life? I don’t know, but I will not be asking any follow-up questions). E has never mentioned anything about dying in water again. Now 6, she loves swimming and baths. Aside from those two times in the bath when I initially assumed she was just being her over-dramatic self, she has never shown any fear of water. She remains creepy as hell though. Goth Toddler became Goth Kindergartner and is now Goth First-Grader. I did eventually go back to the same salon. It’s been three years, and still every time I go, my stylist asks “Remember when E said….?”

We’re moving to our first home soon, and E’s really excited to finally be able to choose the paint colour for her room.

We’re painting it black.