Monsters Like Me
When I was little enough to sit on the ground and notice the stems of flowers and the textures in the soils around me, I would fantasize about the little creatures that slept in the grasses and among the flowers at night. I always hoped to get up early enough to find one still sleeping in the flowers. All I ever found were bugs, caterpillars of various hues, or a toad or two. I wouldn’t touch the bugs or caterpillars until much later in life in my life, but the toads were my friends. I must have attracted flies and mosquitoes because the toads were close enough to have lunch on the gathering clouds of insects.
While I wouldn’t touch the bugs or caterpillars, I was not really afraid of them---unless they started toward me! Bugs were supposed to go the other direction. Caterpillars were never going anywhere too fast, so I didn’t really care where they went or which direction they were going. But bugs were different. Some of them really moved quite fast. And if they were going toward me, I wanted to move away.
One day I was happily playing with my little figurine horses in the dirt by our front porch. The wonderful horses galloped around the flowers and jumped little twigs just like champions. But suddenly a frighteningly large, black beetle came toward my favorite horse. What was worse, the bug went right past the horse and toward me! I was sitting; the bug was racing! I screamed; Mother came racing.
Mother was not impressed by the dangerous black bug. Instead, she picked me up and swatted me good for scaring her. “Next time get up and move,” she said, after I had cried that the bug was coming toward me.
It didn’t take long for my mother to relate the story to my daddy. And, of course, my brother thought it was SO funny that his little sister was afraid of bugs. But I wasn’t really afraid of bugs. I just did not want them to come toward me.
Soon afterward my big brother brought me a June bug. He finally convinced me to let it crawl on my hand. It tickled. Then he put a string on its leg and told me that I could fly it. After holding the string above my head and watching the bug fly around as if it were a helicopter, I had to duck and dodge as it attempted to land on my head. Its landing prompted a scream from the top of my lungs along with what must have been a hysterically funny ballet of wild dancing and jumping accompanied by thrashing arms. The poor June bug didn’t have a chance, but it settled on my shoulder to ride out the storm. That’s when my brother shook his head and told me that the bug must like me.
How can a bug possibly like someone? Does the person have to smell good? When butterflies, lady bugs, and other small creatures alight on a child, are the creatures attracted to the small child for some reason? My brother tried to convince me that little creatures were attracted to me, but then something happened that made me believe that even larger creatures liked me for some reason. Standing in the sun in the field across from our house, I felt a sudden fanning of air as a large bird landed on my head. His claws and beak raked through my hair and pulled some away from my face, frightening me into screaming again. My mother had just glanced out the window to see a huge crow swoop down upon her golden-haired daughter. After I had been assured that the bird was not trying to injure me, Mother explained that crows like shiny things—in this case, the golden blonde hair on my head. My brother just shook his head and said that he wished crows liked him. He wanted one for a pet.
Eventually my brother convinced me that most creatures could be handled and petted. I learned to pick up the Texas horny toad and stroked it into a relaxed state. I knew the lizards that would climb on the house trying to find flies and other insects to eat. A pet possum rode on my shoulder; an owl “chirred” to me from our back porch. And even a toad became a familiar friend.
My brother knew how to frighten me: he would growl and crawl toward me as if he were a lion. Only eventually I knew that the monstrous creature really liked me. And now my daughter holds the hands of her boys to teach them to tie a string to the leg of a June bug, to leave out some water for the toads, to watch for lady bugs and lizards. Yes, monsters like me. And now “monsters” like my children and grandchildren.