Monday, June 15, 2009

They Come in the Night

This Thursday evening past, I was sitting in my living room, plugging away at an article for this week's paper. Having just celebrated my wedding anniversary on Wednesday, I decided to write about what I've learned about marriage over the last few years, and indeed it was coming along nicely.

I had almost finished when my dog started doing his "let me out to pee" dance in front of the door. I put my laptop down, opened the main door, put him on his leash, and grabbed the handle of the outside door.

You will not be reading an article about the rules of marriage this week, due to events that occurred when I looked out the glass pane of my door.

There, clinging to the screen, exactly at my eye level, was a June bug the size of an albatross. Not a finch, not even a quail, but an albatross. He knocked on my door and asked to borrow a sweater. And it fit.

I suppose it didn't exactly happen that way, but those with a fear of June bugs will understand why I'm exaggerating. They are, after all, a present threat.

I'm a tall, hefty girl without a lot of fear. It's not like one of those old phobia episodes of Maury Povich, that I'm scared of hair or tomatoes or people named Bernie. The things I'm afraid of are, in my mind, legitimate and justifiable.

Like tornadoes. I can't imagine why people choose to live in Kansas, Oklahoma, or anywhere else defined as "Tornado Alley" (hello? would you live in a place called "City of Torrential Floods"?), but I guess that's their choice, and they're willing to take that chance. I, on the other hand, will never visit any of those places, let alone park my mobile home in the middle of the potential melee. I am terrified of tornadoes, and the shock of seeing one would kill me before the funnel cloud ever could. But tornadoes, while a legitimate fear, aren't a present threat.

Same with rats. Wet rats, specifically. I had the occasion to see a giant, wet wharf rat when I was young (thanks for taking that picture to school, Mitchell Burke), and the horrifying image has been seared into my mind for over 20 years. To make matters worse, shortly after seeing that picture, a rat darted out from under our shed, ran up my leg, and jumped off my shoulder. By rights, I should still be in intensive therapy. But, while rats are a legitimate fear, I don't live near enough to any notoriously rat-prone areas to consider it a present threat.

Sharks, too. Though I would never go past my ankles in the Caribbean (ask my travel mates), I don't loose sleep over an impending Cape Breton shark attack. You get the point, I'm sure.

June bugs are different, they're a present threat. They arrive in late May, like clockwork, and there isn't a single thing I can do about it. There's nothing I can spray and nowhere I can hide, unless I want to leave North America all together.

A friend said to me, "They say there's a purpose to everything under God, but I haven't found a single good reason why June bugs exist", so I decided to research exactly what they contribute to our ecosystem.

I found out the, ahem, phyllophaga is a New World scarab beetle with three sets of legs and a penchant for deciduous trees. Not only do they attack the roots of garden vegetables, causing poor and stunted growth, but since they live underground, they've been known to cause lawns to turn yellow and die, with such severe damage to the grass from their subterraneous munching that said grass can be rolled up like a carpet.

In as much reading as I've done about June bugs over the past few days, nowhere have I found a single useful characteristic or positive attribute, unless you count "medically harmless" (which you shouldn't, since it's not true, if you consider heart attacks caused by one unexpectedly flying into someone's hood).

All the reading and venting in the world won't do me a bit of good, since these hateful, hard-backed creatures will still be infesting the Strait Area for the next month. Hitting the side of my house with the force of a meteor; flying around my porch light like a possessed swarm of locusts; stomping around my patio at night, waiting for an unsuspecting Gina to wander outside, all for them to leap forward into my long hair and lay eggs...heaven help me, I'm going to have nightmares just from writing this article.

June bugs were put here to scare us, people. Get used to it, and may the force (or the heavy shoe) be with you.

Eleven Down

My oldest son just turned eleven this past week - I know, where does the time go? How is it possible that I am old enough to have an eleven-year-old child?

I could write a book about the lessons I've learned and facts I have gathered since his birth, but this is a short list of more recent revelations.

One, boys have their own little world that I'm not completely welcome in. There are no more playdates as boys get older; now, I hear a knock, I see a figure bolt by me, I hear a door slam, and they're gone. As long as they're behaving, I suppose I don't need to know exactly what they're doing, but it's reached a point where my daily inquisition is met with eye-rolling and "I dunno, just stuff. Skateboarding, whatever." Whatever indeed.

Two, boys' hygiene is a complete contradiction. The same kid who will flat out refuse to wear the "lame" shirt I just bought him, will walk around with a four-inch wide mustard stain on the front of one he likes. He'll beg me to let his hair grow out to a certain style, but would go to school with epic bed-head if I didn't thrust a brush in his direction every morning. He saves his money for cool sneakers, only to let them disintegrate on his feet without the least bit of concern. I can't comprehend how someone so picky about their appearance in some areas, can be so unconscientious about it in others.

Three, as he gets braver, I get more scared. The first day he strapped on his bike helmet for a solo spin around the block, I wanted to chain him to the house. Frantic questions screech through my mind every time he wants to push the boundaries of his current permissions: will he remember the hidden driveway? does he know my cell phone number? what if something happens? Most of his new ventures leave me swallowing my fear, giving him the chance to prove himself and earn my trust, and then holding my breath until he walks back through the door.

Four, I will most definitely be a monster-in-law. With girls entering the picture as of late, I'm fairly certain he can see the terror in my eyes every time I see "her" (whoever "her" might be that particular day) number come up on the call display. I used to think it was so cute when girls would be around, the ones he claimed, with genuine disgust, were "gross". Now, girls are the enemy, but only to me. The future does not look bright in that department, and I'm afraid I might have to search around for those chains I mentioned, from the bicycle days.

Five, he's a child and a teen in equal parts. While he makes his own toast, prefers a shower over a bath, and watches pg-13 movies, he's also mommy's baby when he's sick. He loves to give hugs and play, yet he's quickly closing in on the height of his dad. Pretty soon he won't have a bedtime on the weekend, but I can always be sure he's going to tell his little brother "I love you" before sleep. (I'll have to try to remember that when they're wrestling each other into submission.)

Six, in some cases he knows more than I do. At his birthday party, we had decided some Wii and a movie would occupy most of the night's agenda. I took the liberty of popping a DVD into the player, only to see a blank screen remain on the television. In my defense, the electronics in my living room would, for most, require a Harvard degree in Information Technology and Engineering, but to my surprise, he had the movie up and running in mere minutes. Those darned kids and all their fancy doo-hickeys. Tarnation.

And finally, seven, drugs are the scariest things in the world. All you can do is talk and talk and talk and hope something you say sticks, but when it comes down to it, they're going to do what they're going to do. The worst part: short of holding their hand in the halls of the high school, there isn't much you can do about "the drug situation" except pray that your stories and explanations have led them in the direction of saying no. I have been having the drug conversation for years with my son, and I think I have him convinced that drugs are for the kids who don't have the confidence to be themselves, and that sooner than later, they'll be the stoners who all the cool kids make fun of. Keep your fingers crossed that my brainwashing will pay off.

Wish me luck. I hear the next eleven are even harder.