Thursday, June 20, 2013

Post My Sister Threatens a Caterpillar

[Blogger refuses to let me set the font, today, or the font size (this is supposed to be small).  No matter how many times I change it, it sets different paragraphs in different fonts.  If it were an object, I'd have thrown it across the room by now.]  [7/4/14 - looks like it's taking font edits today.  We'll see when I check the actual blog page.]

My sister, S2, once threatened to bite a caterpillar in half.  This may not seem terribly important, without context, but it was a significant family event.  Let me add the context.  It may seem like I'm going back a tad far, but trust me, the background is necessary.

I'm the oldest daughter and the oldest child in my family.  That includes being the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  My sister, S1, was born two years after I was, so there wasn't that much alone time for me to resent her taking away and there wasn't that much developmental difference between us after a few years.  We mostly learned playing-related things together. 

Our younger sister, S-2, on the other hand, was five years younger than me and three years younger than S-1.  S-1 and I had developed our playing processes and friends by the time S-2 was old enough to be sent outside to play.  S-2 was always playing catch up. 

Now my parents, my father especially, were hermits.  Dad watched the news and read the newspaper and obsessed about how dangerous the world was.  While other children roamed the neighborhood to play, he put up a chain link fence and required us to stay inside it.  Other children could come in but we couldn't come out.  As a result, we got to know our back yard really well.

In our back yard, up against the garage, were several acacia bushes surrounded by a curving line of bricks to keep the grass out of their bed.  The bricks weren't mortared in place, they just sat on the soil and slowly sank in a little.  If you lifted one up, you'd find bugs under it.  All of us were interested in the bugs.  That includes our friends. 

Pill bugs (what my Mom called, we thought, Sell Bugs) were a favorite.  Ants aren't very interesting and earwigs are scary, but the pill bugs roll up like little armadillos and you never know how long you'll have to hold your hand still before they'll open up again and tiptoe, tickling across your palm and fingers.

Better than pill bugs were the fuzzy, black caterpillars that nibbled at the acacias.  S-1 was more interested in bugs than any of us, and especially lover the caterpillars.  She was more patient with them and would hold still or would move in slow motion while they crawled on her.  She was rapt at their undulating velvet movements.  The rest of us could catch them and play with them a little, but we'd eventually get impatient with their slowness and put them in an old peanut butter jar with holes in the lid. 

S-1 would also keep caterpillars in jars.  Sometimes multiple jars.  She was better at keeping the jars clean and the caterpillars fed.  I don't know about our friends, but I would usually let the caterpillars go after a week or so.  I would have lost interest in cleaning and feeding by then and either Mother would issue warnings about them dying or I would get nervous about it, myself, after hearing previous proclamations of doom.

S-1, on the other hand, quite often got caterpillars to make cocoons and sometimes they even hatched out.  I think they were moths, rather than butterflies. 

So S-1 was established as loving caterpillars.  S-2 was often passively left out of our play, just because she was younger and smaller and couldn't keep up.  This came together one day.  One day we were playing in the back yard.  No surprise there.  We had collected many caterpillars, where we were keeping in a red wagon.  There may have been as many as a dozen.  I think there was some vegetation in the wagon to occupy them.  But they still tended to wander off.  Together with whatever else we were doing, we would gently pick up the ones that reached the lip of the wagon.  With the wagon, we could relocate the caterpillars to wherever we wanted to play.  Well, wherever we wanted within the back and side yards.

At some point, S-2 had enough of being ignored.  She demanded that we play with her.  Unfortunately for her, that was easy to ignore.  I mean, we weren't deliberately snubbing her or anything, so it didn't seem like we were doing anything wrong.  So she picked up a caterpillar, put it halfway into her mouth, and threatened to bite it in half if we didn't play with her.

Talk about shrieks.  S-1 went  ballistic.  She couldn't grab the caterpillar or swat at S-2 without risking its goo-filled life.  After yelling more than a bit and after all of us telling S-2 to spit it out, either S-1 ran to get Mom or Mom heard the ruckus and came out.

There were enraged and tearful complaints.  S-2 didn't resist when Mom took the caterpillar away from her.  Mom told her not to do that again because it wasn't fair to the caterpillar.  She also told us to play with our sister.  Since she went right back into the house, that worked about the way you'd expect.

We spend a good amount of time sternly and/or aggrievedly telling S-2 how horrible she had been.  Since that made her the center of attention of four older kids, I don't remember that she minded that.  We eventually came to just naturally include her.  I'm assuming that it was mostly that she had just become old enough to include, with her protest being a sign that she was ready.  The threat might have had something to do with it.  Not so much because of fear of retaliation (Mom had forbidden her to do it again, after all), but due to a grudging respect for her being willing to go that far and clever enough to hit us in a weak spot. 

Bad girl, S-2.  Well done