We were all sitting on the patio this evening. Cocktail Hour. T and I sat watching a large moth gathering nectar. It was huge and looked almost like a humming bird. The moth moved from planter to planter, flower to flower.
Em watched it along with us, and she was fine until we told her that it was NOT a humming bird. Then she freaked out as if the moth were suddenly going to attack her. I explained to her that the moth didn’t have a stinger. When it darted past her head as it moved to the other side of the patio. Em was ready to go back inside.
I asked her to calm down and told her to look at his proboscis as he moved through the pot of petunias. “His what?” she said. I asked T if this was a Hornworm Moth, sometimes called a Hawk Moth. Em looked shocked. She thought she knew her parents, and we were suddenly talking like a couple of entomologists.
In the little town where T and I grew up, bugs were a big part of our childhoods for at least a one year. Most kids couldn’t wait to be in sixth grade. Sixth grade meant we were now middle schoolers. While that was great and meant that we were officially Big Kids, sixth grade also meant something else. All sixth graders were required to complete a bug collection for science class. This was a HUGE project. Generations of families had prepared for the year of the bug collection. Dads built beautiful display cases that were passed from child to child. Our moms even got in on the action. Mothers of sixth graders always had their eyes peeled for a good bug. I remember my mom and her friends collecting bugs in their Styrofoam coffee cups. Even as a little girl, I could hardly wait to be a sixth grader so that I could create my own bug collection.
By the time our own kids were in sixth grade, students were no longer making their bug collections. Something had changed over the years, and the tradition had died. Maybe parents complained, or someone thought that collecting bugs, sticking them in a bottle full of formaldehyde-soaked cotton balls until they died, and then spearing them with pins was cruel. Bug collections may not have been the most politically correct children’s activity, but it was a fantastic educational project. Sixth grade bug collections enriched families and were a beloved community tradition. I’m thankful and proud to have had the pleasure of making a sixth grade bug collection.
Lola will be in sixth grade next year. Hmmmm….. I think I see a homegrown Sixth Grade Bug Collection in our future.