“What’s that black bug on the wall?” my kid asked.
“Is it a wasp?”
“Aren’t you going to look at it?” he asked.
It’s spring in my part of the world. The birds are chirping. The butterflies are fluttering. The flowers are blossoming. And every living creature that can bite, sting, slither or murder is out, as well.
I have already removed ticks from my son’s body. Walking through the deli section of my local grocery recently, I heard one patron telling another about how tick bites made her allergic to meat. “If I eat any red meat, I’ll wind up in the hospital. I used to love a barbecue.” The other patron glared at the first. “Sorry you lost your appetite. My sister got Lyme disease from her tick bite and lost her mind. Shame about the burgers, though.”
Oof. I’m old enough to remember a time when we’d keep an eye out for a target mark and otherwise not worry about it. No longer. Every spring, the tick diseases are spreading. It’s only April, and half my friends have run to their pediatricians for antibiotics after arachnid removals.
This week, notices were sent home from both of my children’s schools about lice outbreaks. “’Tis the season,” one notice proclaimed, as if stated with a light chuckle. How are they laughing? I’m not over my household’s lice outbreak from six months ago. I doubt I’ll ever get over it. The trauma of combing my children’s hair and plucking out eggs will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s up there with the time I swallowed a cup of curdled milk, choked on the pure awfulness and, in the midst of my gagging, had it come out my nose. Some memories you can’t erase; some things you can’t get over.
’Tis the season for lice? Well, then ’tis the season for trauma.
During spring in the wilderness, you begin living on high alert. Was that the buzz of a stink bug or the hiss of a snake? Your mind runs through a thousand options in a split second. I’m going to have to see a chiropractor from self-imposed whiplash after turning my head from one sound to the next.
Two days ago, I received a call from my son’s teacher. “He was stung,” she said, “or bitten.
We’re not quite sure, but something got him. Does he have allergies?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Can you narrow down what got him?”
“Something small enough to get under his shirt.”
Cool, so I know he wasn’t attacked by a raccoon, but all other options are open. That said, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a raccoon walking around my neighborhood wearing a camisole, so perhaps that’s still a possibility. When he got home from school, I was surprised to see how many marks from something covered his body.
“Does it hurt?” I asked. He admitted he had cried earlier, but now it only itched. Did itching mean he was having an allergic reaction? How long would it take for his throat to close up? Why is spring associated with new life when it so clearly should be associated with maiming and murder?
The problem with living on high alert all season is that it’s exhausting. The pollen and panic pull too many mental resources, such that at the end of the day, you are left depleted. That’s why when my child pointed to the black bug high on the wall, I could not get myself to look up, let alone walk over and take care of the situation. A cockroach would probably outrun me. A wasp could outfly me. A spider could probably be caught, but then the thousand babies it might be carrying on its back might swarm me.
No, by day’s end, my mind goes from high alert to utter denial. I refused to look up and see the bug intent on killing me and my children, and if I do not see an evil bug, it is not there.
My kid shrieked. “It’s flying over to me! Mom!” I looked over. The black bug was right at my child’s eye level. Oh, why didn’t I take care of it when I had the chance?
Then it lit up. Mystery bug was a firefly.
Spring really can be quite lovely.