After many years of city living and countless run-ins with cockroaches that left me terrified to leave the bed in the middle of the night for fear of what I might step on in the dark, I decided to give up the fight and head out to the cockroach-free suburbs.
We were barely here a month when I saw something that made the cockroaches look downright cuddly.
I was cleaning the kids’ outdoor playhouse and noticed something big and brown and somewhat prehistoric-looking clinging to the side of the window. I leaned down to flick it off and then recoiled in horror at my first encounter with a cicada. Actually it was the molted shell of a cicada, which is gruesome enough in and of itself. But then I realized that the actual living body of this thing that was the size of my thumb was out there, somewhere in my backyard, and so, like any hardened former city chick, I covered my head and ran screaming inside.
Over the course of the next month, we found dozens of these shells affixed to the sides of our trees, fence, house, and even on my son’s bicycle when he left it the driveway one night. My son, the bug lover was, of course, thrilled and collected the bodies in his insect jar for closer examination. I, of course, was thoroughly and completely grossed out.
Still, we hadn’t actually seen a live one, although the sound of their screeching in the trees could be almost deafening at times. I felt like I was in some Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie each time I found a discarded pod, and I knew that the mutant bug was out there, somewhere, waiting until I was vulnerable, and then it was going to eat me.
I realized I needed some help.
“Honey, we have an infestation,” I told my husband, the resident spider-squasher, mouse-trap setter, and ridder of all things creepy, crawly and rodent-esque.
“Infestation of what?”
“Cicadas. They’re everywhere.”
“Are they in the house,” he asked.
“That’s not an infestation. That’s nature,” he said calmly.
So then I called the pest control people.
“We have a pest control problem,” I said to the guy at Terminex. “Can you come spray?”
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“For what?” he asked.
A full five minutes later when he finished laughing, he told me that you can’t spray for cicadas.
And so I endured. For seven long summers I listened to their shrill calls, stepped on the carcasses of their discarded exoskeletons, and winced when a live one would do a fly-by past my head.
Then one summer, as I was walking my son to the camp bus, we saw a cicada on the driveway that was alive but appeared to be injured.
“Mom, this one can’t fly,” he said as he scooped it up into his hand.
“It’ll probably die. Put it back,” I told him. One down. Two hundred million to go.
“No. We can’t leave it here,” he protested. “Get me a container and I’ll take it to the camp nature counselor and see if she can help it.”
“It’s just a bug. Let it go.”
“Mom, even bugs deserve to live,” he told me. I groaned silently and realized that in teaching my children to respect all of God’s creatures, I couldn’t be selective about the creepy ones. So I got him a Tupperware, poked holes in the top, and helped him fill it with leaves and a flower and anything else an injured cicada might want in a plastic home.
As the bus pulled up, I waved goodbye to the boy and his cicada. Then I turned, walked back up the driveway, stepped on something and felt a crunch.
I didn’t even have to look.
©2008, Beckerman. All rights reserved. For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at www.lostinsuburbia.net, and check out her hilarious new book “Rebel without a Minivan” at Amazon and www.rebelwithoutaminivan.com