Saturday, October 16, 2010
Bad Bugs and a Bug That Brings You Joy
I've grown to hate bugs. In Jersey, it was only the cockroach I had to worry about. And the occasional mosquito bite. But here... I've got bees the size of a man's big toe; I've got spiders you remove with pooper scoopers (well, that was actually Oklahoma); I've got ladybug infestations and stinkbugs; wood bees that are drilling my barn down; moths that are running amok; mud daubers, chiggers, superhuman ticks and don’t get me started on the flies. Anywhere you see cows, there are flies. Big flies, little flies, in-between flies, flies that give you the middle finger…
One time there was a praying mantis on the top of Kurt’s head like a jaunty hat. He looked this way and that way (the mantis, not Kurt) and was kind of cute until you remembered praying mantises cannibalize their mates after sex. What was he doing on Kurt’s head?
Kelly found a beautiful dragonfly the other day. Neon green. He was as big as my pinky. He was injured, so she brought him in the house. I said, “Very nice but this ain’t a baby bunny we can try to nurse back to health. It’s a bug!” and I made her take him back outside again. The next day when I was sweeping the front porch, I found his carcass behind the geraniums. I felt guilty. When the bugs are so big you feel bad about their deaths, it’s a problem.
I still kill them though. In Jersey, I’d scoop them up in a napkin and carry them outside where I set them free. Except the cockroaches. Here, I’ve learned that as soon as I see two of something right in a row, I’m in for an infestation. It is going to be holy hell. There is nothing cute about thousands of ladybugs crawling up the walls and across the ceiling and dropping into the mayonnaise when you’re trying to make a sandwich. This is what happened when we lived in the Amityville Horror House. Not here thank God. Here I’ve got what’s considered normal bugs for the area. Which is bad enough. A few dozen of this, a couple of that. Just enough to annoy me, sting me now and then, and make me scratch.
I like some of the bugs. Lightning bugs. Cicadas. When they make that clicking noise, it reminds me of a hot summer day. Crickets. They’re good luck. And butterflies. Butterflies remind me of my mother. She loved butterflies. She had butterfly decorations in her house and a sweatshirt with a butterfly appliqué on it. She even had a tattoo of a butterfly on her ankle. I don’t even have any tattoos and she had one. I was very proud of her for that.
The morning of her funeral, everyone was waiting in their cars to proceed to the cemetery. The funeral home guys were going back and forth carrying all the flowers out to the hearse, and the family, Kurt and I, my dad, my brother and sister and their spouses, were standing outside the door watching them, smoking cigarettes and crying. The limos were waiting for us to get in, the doors opened.
All of a sudden a big yellow butterfly flew out of the funeral home door and fluttered in and out of us. It flew all around. We all started screaming. “Look! Look! It’s Mommy!” Then it flew up, up, up over the roof and disappeared into the sky. We all watched it go.
This was in April. It was cold up in Jersey. Butterflies weren’t even out yet. And butterflies don’t live inside funeral homes. It was a sign from my mother telling us it was okay, she was still with us, maybe not in the way we were used to, but she was here. And we really needed that. None of us is religious. Some of us don’t even believe in God. How do you get comfort if you can’t tell yourself, “She is in Heaven now?” I’ve come to realize that’s one reason why religion is good. Comfort. Or else you need a good, old fashioned butterfly.