Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ants in my Pants

My oldest son cracks me up. His favorite toy is named "SuperBug". He loves bugs of all kinds. He sleeps with a bee and a ladybug. When we are outdoors, he studies ants, bees, spiders. Last year, he caught a grasshopper longer than my index finger and a praying mantis or two. He took them to school for show and tell. His entire kindergarten year was spent reading library books about the life cycle of bugs. We read about ants and butterflies, but also about termites and cockroaches. It was disgusting.

I can't stand bugs.

The reason I can't stand bugs is very simple. Of course, there is a story behind it. When I was in kindergarten, we lived in Southern California. Our street was, essentially, built upon a giant ant hill. Every week, a different house on the street was being treated for ants. They would make giant highways of ant bodies that would stretch up to an open second floor window because some child had left the cap off the toothpaste and they could smell the sugar. It was disturbing, but living there, you just put the ants at the back of your mind. I was, after all, in kindergarten.

Well, one day, a group of neighbors were in our back yard playing in the sprinkler. We were all in our bathing suits, and our moms were sipping iced tea in the shade of our back patio. We were having a great time running and being crazy and cooling off. I decided to take a short rest, sitting down on a small wall that separated the patio from the rest of the yard. There was a puddle at the base of the wall. I put my feet in it.

(Right now, something inside of you should be saying, "Uh-Oh...")

Well, the "puddle" was a collapsed ant hill. After a few seconds, I felt an itch inside my suit. I scratched, but the itchiness continued. I looked in my suit.

IT WAS FULL OF ANTS!

Screaming, I ran back into the sprinkler. (I had, of course, instinctively ripped off my suit and was bare naked and screaming until the ants were gone.)

Did I mention that all the neighbors were over?

Of course, my mother, laughing so hard that she was crying, rushed over to help. We got the ants off, but the laughter didn't die down until quite a while later. I don't care. I still blame those ants. Forever afterward, my dad and mom would rib me about my lingering bug phobia. On Saturday afternoons, Dad would turn on movies like "THEM". Talk about creepy.

But, fast forward to now. As a result of my son and his this love of all things buggy, I have had to temper my own distaste for the little beasts. We've come to a bit of a truce. In my generosity, I have decided to give the outdoors over to the bugs. (Inside the house is another story.)

I have to, grudgingly, admit that certain bugs DO serve a very useful purpose in my garden. Our wildflower patch and clover patch have been great places to see butterflies grow and honeybees do their work. We don't use bug control chemicals on anything at our place, so we even have predators, like the mantises. They are such fun to watch in action. And this time of year, the lightning bugs are out every evening. My son is very good at catching those, too.

"Hey, mom, do you want to hold it?" he'll ask me.

"That's okay, honey." I say. "You go ahead. I think I'll pass."

I haven't told him the story about the ants yet.

Midwest Mom

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