Hot, dry weather and a cloud of green followed by ravenous red. The aphids had taken over and all hope was lost until the ladybird swarm of ’76. I ran happily through a storm of hungry ladybirds – my world suddenly filled with scratchy flapping wings of red and black, and it felt like pure joy. I had never been this fearless of insects. I loved ladybirds so much and I didn’t see them as a threat. Not at all! Not like earwigs, and spiders, and wasps, and bluebottles. Ladybirds are the absolute best. I loved them. Unconditionally. I liked it when they landed on my knee or crawled up my arm from my wrist to my elbow. I liked providing assisted launches if I thought they were in danger. I loved their trusting natures, and their strange bellies and their strange cousins. Their poisonous yellow cousins. They’re not really poisonous, though. I’m sure of it. I think… But they look it! Don’t you think? Honestly, I want one as a pet.

I swirled and danced with the ladybirds, along the narrow path of paving slabs that lead to the bottom of the garden and to the garden shed, then on to the grass that lay just before the shrubs and bushes that nestled against the brick garden wall, and I knew I would never forget this moment. It felt otherworldly, as if anything could happen. It felt like a dream!

My mother started scolding me to come indoors, but I would not budge. I could not budge. How would I see them from inside the cold, dark kitchen? Its ghastly outer walls pebble dashed for a long serviceable reign, overlooking my mother’s rockery garden, the washing line, and a discarded tricycle.  Between them, they were trying to dash my hopes of being whisked away on an exciting adventure with that red flurry. (Although I’d probably draw the line at eating their version of healthy greens).  But to come indoors? If I went inside, they would never find me there! Despite her pleas about not letting them in the house all she had to do was close the doors and windows and leave me outside.  What did it matter which side of the door I was on?

“I want to stay outside!” I insisted and she looked at me.

She had dragged me inside, unappreciative of the ladybird hoard, somehow forgetting their dramatic, heroic arrival and aphid decimation. She began slamming shut all the windows with an angry bang!

She had run out of patience.

I was in serious trouble, and it was so, so hot inside. Pinned to the kitchen chair by fear all I could do was look up to the sky to catch glimpses of the ladybirds as they continued to swarm, eating their fill and then eventually moving away, moving on, to aphid pastures new. I felt forlorn. I had wanted to be with them right until the end, and I could only view them from the chair I had been unceremoniously dumped in, restricted by someone else’s idea of what was and what was not fun, or interesting; by a grown up bound by her need to keep bugs out of her laundry, out of her kitchen, and out of sight. I swore I would never be that type of grown-up. “I’ll take my child to go look for ladybirds, not run from them!” I vehemently promised, inside my busy, buzzing head.

And, in a few years’ time I’d get my revenge with a caterpillar invasion. But that’s another house and another story.

Published in Mom’s Favorite Reads

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