If there was one thing I dreaded about this summer, it was the cicada invasion. The swarming, the running for cover and praying that none of them landed on my arms, or God forbid, in my hair. As a high school graduate, I remember grad parties outside with cicadas everywhere, straight out of a Hitchcock movie. Adolescent boys expertly pulling off their heads, their wings. And some boys even daring to eat them.
When I realized this was the summer they were coming back, I was less than thrilled. But there’s one thing that’s different about this summer.
Since Brood X’s last emergence, I have myself morphed into my adult stage and emerged a different creature. I’m a #boymom.
For months, my now 4-year-old asked every day if the cicadas were out yet. He asked to see pictures of them, to watch videos so he could hear what they sounded like. He asked a gazillion questions. We went to Disney World, and while he enjoyed it, he was not the least bit sad when it was time to head back to the airport. He was wiggling with excitement because he knew the cicadas would finally be there.
Then finally, one magical day full of the stuff childhood memories are made of, we went to Fort Liberty Playground. There was not an inch of land in that park that the cicadas left untouched. I lost track of how many landed on me, announcing their presence by the slight pinch of their legs. At first, I was tempted to cringe, but then I just laughed and play screamed along with my boys. Being a boy mom certainly helps me to look at these once pesky insects with new eyes. Looking at them through the eyes of my boys helped me to see how truly fascinating these creatures are.
My children squealed with delight as they chased cicadas, caught them in their dirty hands and examined them closely. Of course, the cicadas (at least the male ones as I learned) sounded the alarm cry whenever a child picked them up by the wings. It was warranted of course, as I chided my almost-2-year-old not to squish him to death. Oops, too late, we lost one. The 4-year-old crushed one under his muddy gym shoe with a triumphant stomp. We are still learning to be gentle. But the cicadas have been patient teachers in teaching my boys how to treat nature with respect.
It took a while for the cicadas to emerge in our neighborhood, but they were finally plentiful enough that the boys were able to go cicada catching with their butterfly nets and our house became home to two cicadas (Which both ended up flying loose! Yes, my 18-year-old self would die if I knew this would someday be my life!), one affectionately named Cicady or “Cady” as my almost-2-year-old called him. We gave them a branch from our mulberry tree to suck the sap out of, and generally tried to accommodate them for a while, but eventually, we released them, explaining to our 4-year-old that the cicadas do best in their natural habitat.
And then, one afternoon, listening to the cicada’s chorus (that beautiful sweet summer serenade), I realized the cicadas were on their way out.
These endearingly ugly creatures I had learned to co-exist with and maybe even enjoy for the sake of my sons would be gone soon. And with a pang of nostalgia, I realized something even sadder. The next time Brood X emerges, my boys will be 19 and 21. They will be all grown up maybe not with the maturity of full-grown adults, but legally, and by all medical definitions, they will be adults. My heart cannot grasp this fact.
The cicadas are here for such a short time – 6 magical weeks to a child that feels like forever but to an adult is gone in an instant. So much innocent fun, joy, and wonder – much more emerges from those shells clinging on tree trunks than just the cicadas. They have taught me to be in the moment with my children, to enjoy this sweet, brief time, and to get my hands dirty with them.
Thinking back to the last emergence, I realize I am a completely different person now, and that is okay. That is beautiful. It is bittersweet thinking that my two little boys will be men, the next time they see the cicadas, but that, too, is also beautiful.