the year of the cicada

So it is the year of the cicada, which was initially a pretty creepy concept to me. Apparently the cicadas go in 17 year cycles, and when they come, they bring all their friends and relatives and they party in every tree in the Chicago suburbs. They're so noisy that you can barely think when you get near one of their hang outs.

Recently, at a birthday party for one of Anna's five year old buddies, Anna managed to catch and cuddle two cicadas. The other girls were pretty frightened of the orange-headed insects, but Anna loved them with a strange passion. So much so that in the car she suggested we open a window because then perhaps more cicadas would join us. What delightful company a gigantic, screaming, orange-headed insect would make on our hour long trip home!

Anyway, as I was watching the cicadas crawl up Anna's arm with a mixture of horror and awe, I realized that the next time the cicadas come our way, Anna will be in college--or possibly have even graduated. I can't think or write these words without aching for my Anna, who is growing faster than I realized.

In light of the circumstances, I've come to think of parenting in a fresh way, one that seems to trim the task down a bit and bring more delight to the process. This summer, I'm not in the business of making perfect, successful, savvy girls. My job is simpler than that--for now, at least, I'm gardening--planting memories in the fertile soil of their hearts. I'm hoping that the lovely memories will outweigh the not-so-lovely ones which will inevitably slip in.

As Dostoevsky wrote in the Karamazov Brothers:

"Remember that nothing is nobler, stronger, more vital, or more useful in future life than some happy memory, especially one from your family home. A lot is said about upbringing, but the very best upbringing, perhaps, is some lovely, holy memory preserved from one's childhood. If a man carries many such memories with him, they will keep him safe throughout his life. And even if only one such memory stays in our hearts, it may prove to be our salvation one day.

Speaking of memories, Anna may have relished the cicadas at that party, but Natalie was all about the frosting . . .


Dove Knits said...

I've always loved bugs, especially crickets and grasshoppers.

I don't see how your girls could walk away from being raised by you two and not have a trunk full of lovely memories.

I hope you guys are doing well today.

Romani said...

Fear not- you will get to hear cicadas again soon.

There are several different types of cicadas- most of them have a shorter life cycle, so they are present every summer. (I remember hearing them in my rural town growing up).

What happens is that the 17 year variety comes out and augments the normal population- that's why they seem so loud and numerous.

So all you have to do is leave the big city behind and Anna can invite in cicadas every summer. :-)

Ser said...

I love this post, Jenny, the pictures, the thoughts. I, too, have moments when I realize how fast this is all passing. It makes all of the "spiritedness" so much more enjoyable.

I miss you and can't wait to see you next week!


Lucy said...

I'm glad my goddaughter has no fear of those rather ugly creatures!

The quote from Dostoevsky is beautiful. I'd forgotten that...