“Wow! They’re beautiful! Look at those googly eyes—they’re adorable! I’ve never seen anything like it! How fascinating!”
These were the comments I overheard one Shabbos morning a couple of months ago as I was sitting in my kitchen, enjoying a cup of coffee and the latest issue of Ami Magazine. Each week, if I’m lucky enough, I get a few minutes to myself while my husband gets the boys off to shul. Hiding in my safe nook, away from prying eyes, I’ve overheard many interesting exchanges between my husband and the kids, but never anything like that. Their conversations usually consist of comments on that week’s Aim!, or discussing interesting concepts in the parshah. That week, however, they seemed to be discussing something that was so adorable and gorgeous that it defied nature itself.
The subject of my children’s generous compliments? Cicadas. Yes, insects.
Having grown up in Maryland, I’m old enough to remember the last Brood X cicada infestation when I was a teenager. This phenomenon happens once every 17 years, when trillions of cicadas that have been buried underground since their eggs were laid 17 years earlier suddenly emerge. Taking all those years to mature, they make neat screwdriver-like holes in the ground and crawl out in search of the nearest tree to climb. Then, as if in a scary novel, the beady-eyed creatures shed their crunchy golden shells. Sometimes, you can even be lucky enough to watch a cicada being “born,” leaving its old home behind on a tree. For a few moments, its body is white, then it slowly changes to a greenish-bluish hue, complementing its huge red eyes and wings that are longer than its body.
Some of my recollections from the last cicada infestation:
Cicadas in ladies’ sheitels while walking to shul. Cicadas getting stuck in men’s hats and shtreimels. Cicadas flying into cars during carpool. Cicadas getting stuck in the space between the windshield and dashboard. Cicadas in all of the household places that are too high to reach without a ladder.
The perspective I grew up with towards these other-worldly invaders was that they’re revolting and gross—a far cry from my children’s description. It made me wonder. How could it be that we had such opposite opinions? Did it really matter if the kids thought they were disgusting or charming creatures?