“Life finds a way…” – (Michael Crichton) Jurassic Park
This morning my six-year-old daughter, Harper, and I took our dog Pickles on a walk around the neighborhood.
Pickles is a small terrier/spaniel mix that is full grown at eight pounds. He’s afraid of everything, and once hid under a bush when a squirrel sat on a tree branch and squeaked at him.
Pickles has to be walked every morning as he refuses to do his business anywhere but on a walk… Usually my husband has the honor of walking him, and I take Harper to school. But this morning… Harper and I were up quite early, so I agreed to walk the dog.
This is the drill with walking this dog… Pickles has to wander about, sticking his head in every plant, taking tiny pees on everything, which is called “marking his territory…” I’ve learned this fact about dogs, having never been a dog owner until a month ago.
Harper explained the process to me by saying, “Whenever Pickles goes number one, Dad says he’s sending a P-mail… But whenever Pickles goes Number 2, Dad says he’s sending a FedEx.”
I won’t pretend to understand that analogy, but it thrilled Harper, and as we walked, she would comment… “Look another P-mail!” or “Here comes the FedEx Truck!”
At some point along the way, Harper came into possession of a roly poly, which delighted her. She had big plans for this bug, promising to get a jar for it when we got home, get some grass on which it could feed, collect more, and try to create a farm of them. She was thrilled… And was literally talking non-stop about it.
I shook my head and said, “Sounds like a plan,” but inside, I thought, ‘we are getting rid of that bug at some point on this walk.’
Then the dog and I walked ahead while Harper decided to sit in the middle of the sidewalk and play with her bug, which had taken a “rolled up” position, I’m assuming out of fear for his life. She was rolling him back and forth and saying, “no other animal can do this! He’s like a tiny marble!”
As Pickles lifted his leg against a large tree to send his fiftieth P-mail, I remember thinking maybe Harper had a future as an entomologist, as I’d never witnessed a person get THAT excited about a bug.
Perhaps this is how scientific minds start out, I thought, feeling hopeful about her future… First with radical interest in something as mundane as a bug… Then, they whizz all their math assignments, and end up captaining a spaceship.
I was feeling hopeful for her having a future in something besides the arts… Which is what every artist really wants for her child…
It was then that I noticed Harper rise slowly…. Look down… Make the sign of the cross…. Before walking solemnly over in my direction.
“Oh well,” she said, forcing a smile. “The roly poly went to heaven. I guess I’ll see him again one day when I’m dead.”
“You’re being dramatic,” I told her. “He’s probably not dead… Just being still. He’s scared.”
“No,” she said. “I accidentally stepped on him and saw him there on the bottom of my shoe. Look…” she said lifting her foot… “He’s gone forever.”
Then, she looked to the heavens, and with her fists clenched like an Italian widow said, “I miss him soooo much! He was soooo special to me!”
She’s definitely an artist, I thought, kneeling down in front of her.
“Look Harper,” I said, “Little bugs often have short and hard lives. They don’t live long.. But we need to take comfort that this special little guy had some fun with you rolling around before he died. No one lives forever, but even the smallest moments are the ones that are the most important. And that time you spent with him was special for him… And it was special for me because I got to watch how happy you were.”
Harper looked into the middle-distance, and I felt a strange and deep connection with her over something so bizarre.
“Look mom,” she said, pointing ahead of her. “Pickles just delivered another FedEx!”