We walked out of playgroup and Juliet fell behind.
“Come on,” I called to her. “Hurry up, it looks like it’s going to rain.”
Juliet ignored me, focused intently on the sidewalk. She’s three and often finds treasure on the ground: discarded rubber bands, smushed flower petals, small rocks, snails. This time it was a pill bug or roly poly. One minute it was scuttling along, going about its pill bug business, and the next it was flying through the air, tightly clasped between pudgy fingers. She dropped it, twice, and it tucked and rolled, a tiny brown marble skittering toward freedom, but each time J was too quick for it. That pill bug never stood a chance.
Juliet adores insects. She’s never met a spider she doesn’t like. For her next birthday (which is ages away, but the girls are always planning imaginary parties) she likes to say that she’ll have a Bee Party.
She has it all mapped out: Cake, of course, and party bags. And, most importantly, games. A Bee Party, according to Juliet, would involve guests wearing Bee Costumes complete with stingers so they could all poke each other in what to me sounds like a preschool version of Lord of the Flies meets King of the Castle, but in her mind sounds like super-amazing-fun.
After the Stinging there’d be Pass the Parcel, which is a game where you pass a present around a circle and each person gets to unwrap a layer of paper when the music stops. Except instead of candy inside the layers or a present inside the parcel there would be… BEES!
And then a pinata! But inside the pinata would be… BEES! Juliet gets fiercely excited when she’s describing her Bee Party; her whole face lights up at the thought of insects streaming from the stomach of a wounded cardboard donkey. She may not have many friends left afterward…
She proudly showed me her newest find. “Look! A doodle bug! I love him! I’m going to take him home!” I tried, halfheartedly to get her to put the bug back where she found it, but have you met three year olds before? Some battles are really not worth the fight.
We got home and Juliet brought the insect into the house.
“Bugs stay outside,” I said. “Take it back outdoors.” She was willing, but only if I opened the back door and only if I helped her find a container for her new friend so she could give it leaves and make a home for it and love it and… she chattered on and on, bouncing excitedly next to me in the kitchen while I hunted for the key. I found it and unlocked the door. The door sticks, so I gave it a good sharp tug, stepping backward and telling Juliet to look outside for her bug’s new home because I know we have loads of boxes out there already when… crunch.
The timing was unfortunate. Juliet had dropped her precious doodle bug at the exact moment when I stepped backward without looking.
There it lay, a dark smear on the red tiles.
Juliet looked up at me, her face aghast. Her mouth opened wide in a deep howl of anguish and tears flowed. “Nooooooooooooooooo!” I tried to comfort her. I hugged her. I said I was sorry. I said I was sorry again. I reminded her it was an accident. I gave her another hug. She calmed down a bit, but the sight of the dead bug set her off again.
The only thing that stopped the tears was the suggestion of a bug funeral, probably because burying involves digging and digging is another one of her favourite things.
I wrapped the poor corpse in a paper towel, but that wasn’t good enough. J wanted a box. And she wanted a “deep deep deep hole” because she worried that a seagull would “swoop down and snaffle him up from the ground.” We compromised on a container that used to hold toothpicks.
Outside, armed with a garden trowel, Juliet began to dig. After a couple shovelfuls she gave up and turned the trowel over to me, choosing to take on a supervisory role instead.
When the hole was deep enough (in my opinion. I think in Juliet’s opinion it was nowhere near) we laid the remains of the doodle bug inside. I patted the container to make sure it was as far down as it could go… and it cracked under my touch. Juliet’s eyes welled up with tears again, so I started shoveling dirt back on top as quickly as I could. “Okay, so, now do you want to say a few words?” I asked. Distract, distract. She looked forlornly down into the hole. “Good bye,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too,” I added, along with the last scoop of soil.
RIP Roly Poly. We didn’t know you long or well, but Juliet loved you nonetheless.
Image Copyright © 2000-2015 Dreamstime stock images. Not the actual bug in question. Maybe one of its cousins.