“Would you like to say a few words?”
It was drizzling rain, my daughter was wearing all black, the whole sha-bang.
“Of course. Ahem. K.G. II was a good little walker. He was very soft. He was easy to love. He loved leaves, oh how he loved those leaves…”
I wish I could say this afternoon was my first caterpillar funeral, but unfortunately, it was not. Caterpillars do not do well in captivity around here. And by captivity I mean placed in a shoe box peppered with leaves and lovingly relocated to an upper bunk next to a cluttered warren of stuffed animals.
Maybe it’s the dry air, the sudden change in temperature, or the dusty nature of old shoe boxes, but we’ve yet to see a caterpillar spin it’s cocoon and emerge a butterfly indoors.
Like the three little pigs, my kids have tried a variety of house building materials, from mason jars to old cottage cheese containers, from raspberry clamshells to musty shoeboxes, but no matter how many times I try to convince them that the outdoors is the animal’s natural habitat and they would do well to keep them there, a cozy image of a cricket on the hearth breathing out a sigh of relief as he warms his cold limbs by the flames is all they envision when they bring home creatures with six or more legs.
They may die of starvation, stress, or seasonal allergies-who knows, but it is never from a lack of love. Hence, all the funerals.
I know where this is all coming from, believe me. The meticulous care and nurture of all the rollie-pollies, caterpillars, worms and carnival feeder fish who have darkened our doorway stems from the fact that their cold-hearted mother won’t allow them to keep anything cold-blooded or warm-blooded, bigger than a strawberry, to call their own.
You have to understand, I have a strict, no pets while a family member is still in diapers policy which thwarts their schemes for something furry or scaly (they don’t care which) every time. They turn on the puppy eyes, the crocodile tears, the works. How much longer can I hold them off?
They even got me inside a pet store once. Tried to convince me how fuss-free turtles can be.
“Look how cute they are when the swim and then come up on their little log to sunbathe!” they squealed. I saw the cute turtle, really I did, with his wrinkled neck all stretched out, feet kicking… awww….but he quickly blurred out of focus when I saw all gear that he required.
A huge aquarium, filter, heating lamp, food, veterinary care, a new piece of furniture upon which to put said new 30 gallon aquarium, and what does this sign read? A friend to go with him or else turtles get too lonely? I not only saw dollar signs beyond a one-time purchase, but worse yet, clear visions of who would be changing the water, tending to burn victims from that heating lamp, getting peed on, and ultimately making the funeral arrangements.
I walked back to the car “the meanest mom in the world” but not a day goes by when I’m elbow deep in diaper blow-outs and somebody throwing up red gatorade, that I am not thankful for saying no to those turtles. And the stray cat, and the hamster babies.
I wish the best for those animals, truly I do, but I also know my limits. Another baby is on his way (did I tell you all it’s a boy?) and I need to bite off only what I can chew.
So I’ve taken a new approach. “What can a pet offer us that our 22 month old baby can’t?” Think about it, I encourage them. She’s soft, she’s cuddly, she does and says things we all find out-of-this-world adorable. We feed her and change her. And sometimes she even bites, just like a real pet! But the best part about her is that one day she will grow up and help shoulder the burden of taking care of me and Dad in our old age. No pet would ever do that for you.
And ironically, inevitably, she’ll even help with the funeral arrangements.
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, free-lance writer, returned missionary, wife and the mother of five, soon to be six, small children. Read more by Margaret Anderson at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com