Last night I read that this week we’re expecting a hard frost. Well, it’s November after all and nothing unusual about that. I mentioned to Camera Girl that I saw a dragonfly circling the yard the other day and now it’ll be the end of his time with the frost.
This morning Camera Girl was getting ready to go out on an errand and she said she’d stop at the top of the driveway and put a letter in the mailbox. I said I need some air. Give it to me. As I was walking back toward the house she is walking toward me instead of driving out in her car and yelling something excitedly. She is an enthusiastic woman. What she was saying was that she saw a praying mantis sitting on top of a gallon water jug that I had left on the porch. She asked me to catch it and save it indoors.
And sure enough, there it was. I scooped it up and put it in a convenient cage (the former home of one of my grandsons’ hermit crabs).
And the new plan is to see how long he can live in an indoor environment. I’ll try to offer him raw hamburger but if that fails we’ll get some crickets at the pet store. Well, Princess Sack of Potatoes will get a chance to study a praying mantis more closely than I thought.
Well, this is the finale of the great mantis experiment. Yesterday Camera Girl used her hawk-eye super vision to find an adult praying mantis in the jungle-like weeds of her vegetable garden. In fact, the mantis was on one of her Japanese eggplant plants. Princess Sack-of-Potatoes will know that praying mantises really do exist although unfortunately they do not talk in an English-accented throaty whisper as they do in an Eric Carle picture book video. But they are indeed monsters that inhabit the tiny world of our garden. And that’s a fun thing for a little child to discover.
So the first survivor has made his appearance in the yard. This one found his way into the stella d’oro daylilies in the swimming pool area. May he be the first of many that show up. My little granddaughter will find out that praying mantises don’t talk like they do in her Eric Carle books but they are very exciting for an insect.
Well, the little buggers arrived two days ago and unharmed apparently. Some hatched out today so I held onto a few and attached the egg cases to tree and shrub branches around the perimeter of the yard.
But I’ll try to feed them by raising fruit flies and letting them feed on them. Here is my fruit fly attractant.
My two-year-old granddaughter is a big fan of the books by the children’s author Eric Carle. And one of her favorites is the Very Quiet Cricket. There is a YouTube video of an animated version of the book and one of the characters is a preying mantis that whispers in a hoarse voice a funny sounding “HELLOOOOO!” And that character is my granddaughter’s favorite part of the book. So, she is a fan of preying mantises. And by a strange coincidence so am I. I’ve always liked finding mantises wherever I have lived. And I have found them here in New England too but infrequently.
And so, for that reason I’ve decided to increase my odds of finding them this summer for my granddaughter. She said, “Pa, show me preying mantis.” She calls me Pa because that is what all my grandchildren call me. My oldest grandson made the name up when he was barely able to speak and it became official.
So I have to find her a mantis. I looked to see if any of the gardening supply stores in the area sell preying mantis egg cases. They didn’t so I just ordered some on-line and should have them soon. Camera Girl thinks it will be educational to see the baby mantises hatch out and thinks we should keep a few to raise up. The prospect of finding aphids and then larger insects to feed them sounds challenging but I’ll give it a try.
With any luck by summer we’ll have a few good sized mantises and my granddaughter will learn a little bit about an interesting insect. At least that’s the plan.
At least going back a generation or more a pattern of behavior has become established in the colder areas of the country that once people reach retirement age they head south to Florida or Arizona and live out their days in a retirement community. And I suppose if you are sufficiently wealthy this would not prevent you from supporting and staying in touch with your descendants back North.
But in today’s world of limited opportunities and constrained resources another choice is to use your retirement and the resources you have accrued to reinforce and enhance your family’s opportunities. Think about how difficult it is for a family with two working parents to provide the opportunities and attention that their kids need to grow up right. If they manage to check their kids’ homework and get them to sports practices and games that’s probably taking up their whole free time left over from work and sleep.
Now as touched on earlier in this series it is much to be preferred that children have a stay at home mom to take care of them and make sure they’re staying out of trouble but even then, kids should have a lot more of their family’s time and attention. For instance, who says a father is the only one who can bring the kids to a baseball game or a museum or a movie. Why can’t grandpa do that? And grandma is about a million times better at babysitting babies than a 15-year-old girl who will spend all her time on the phone while the baby sits glued to Sesame Street.
With respect to school work many of the baby boomers are STEM professionals and can not only help out with homework but can provide real world insights to children on what career paths make sense and which are dead ends. For instance, if one of my grandsons asked me whether he should major in computer science or intersectional gender studies I think I’d be able to give him a very clear answer!
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even the tradition of having the Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house does more for bonding the family than an occasional phone call to Florida provides. And it may provide the opportunity for a request for financial or other help that otherwise wouldn’t happen.
And what are you sacrificing if you forego the condo in Florida. Playing shuffleboard with other old people that you don’t even know? Missing out on skin cancer? Sure, maybe your arthritis won’t hurt quite as much but don’t forget those alligators that are waiting to pick you off at the mail box. And how does that stack up against teaching your grandkids how to fly a kite or telling them about the time their great-great grandfather shot it out with armed robbers from the running board of a car.
And there may even be a payback for you besides satisfaction. When the day comes when you are against it and your time is up maybe there will be someone to shed a tear and say a kind word at your bedside instead of just a text message from up North to say goodbye.