Ladybug, Ladybug

September 18, 2009

It was raining early the other morning and as I stepped out I suddenly started singing a song from my childhood, "It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring." Except the old man was up and standing in the rain. The song continues, "Bumped his head and went to bed and he couldn’t get up in the morning." Wait a minute. I never thought about it as a kid, but singing that as an adult I realize how serious it is. First the guy’s probably suffering from sleep apnea or even asthma, which is why he’s snoring, and then he ends up with a concussion and can’t get up because he’s probably got internal bleeding. And we’re singing about it! It’s almost as bad as that knick-knack, paddywhack song, the one about the old man who played two on my shoe, then he played three on my knee, and so on, up to about thirteen when he starts playing on my genes. And every part ends "This old man came rolling home." And we all know he goes rolling home because I don’t like some creepy old guy tapping out music on parts of my body so I paddywhack him about as hard as I can. What were our parents thinking teaching us these songs? That it’s okay to neglect and even physically assault the elderly?

Our parents taught us the most horrible nursery rhymes and games. Don’t get me started on "Three Blind Mice", although I still think the worst one was that song we were taught to sing to ladybugs: "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children will burn." How would you feel if some stranger came up to you and told you your house was on fire? Okay, I know, it’s just a silly thing you say to, but even as a kid I wouldn’t say it. For one thing I knew members of the Coccinellidae family didn’t really have houses with a lot of small children running around. They’d plant their eggs and move on. Sometimes huge groups of them get together and plant their eggs. I’d read about this and then one year I saw it happen. There was a maple tree in front of my house, and one day in early Fall I came home from school and it was covered with ladybugs. They were swarming all over it along with these little black crawly things with yellow spots that I’d seen before but never realized were ladybug larvae. I kept watching them over the next few days and put some of the larvae in a jar too. They all started going into cocoons, which were like strange little bulbs with one end stuck to the trunk and even the leaves and the walls of the jar. If I touched the bulbs they’d bounce up and down, like the larva inside was saying, "Hey, knock it off, I’m pupatin’ in here!" The ones on the tree stayed dormant, unchanging, soon not even reacting to being touched, but the ones in the jar, which I kept under a lamp in my room, produced a mass of ladybugs within a few days. I released them in the afternoon when I got home from school and they disappeared into the air. That night there was a frost, and I was afraid they froze without ever having children.

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