Friday, May 17, 2013

ants in one's pants

It all started with Elliott's request that we go outside after lunch to pick flowers.  I mean, is there a better question for a mommy to hear from her littlest boy?  Yes, there have been some winter afternoons when all I wanted to do was curl up under a blanket with Elliott and read some books, and unfortunately on those days what Elliott wished for was a much more exciting mom, more energetic.  And less cold.  Those days were not the days that I think I should use to judge whether it was a good idea that Elliott was a half day kindergarten child, a choice we had made despite its different-ness from the other children in his class.

But this afternoon was one that I was feeling more confident about our home-ness.  We went outside and explored the Spring that had sprung in our backyard.  We collected flowers of all varieties. Elliott, especially because of late he frequently moves about in an unusual sort of low gorilla lope/frog hop/chipmunk scuttle, what we call being creature-ish, found more than I did.  Finding secret flowers as he called them, rows of blossoms hidden on the underside of leaves.  That made me squeeze his smallness and his love of animals and the outside world.

We were not discriminating.  We picked weeds alongside wild meadow alongside carefully placed flowers.

He asked if he could climb a weeping cherry tree and cut some of its blossoms.  And crouched there for a bit watching the birds flitting about.

We went over into the graveyard and collected tufts of small wildflowers that were beginning to fill in blankets over the graves.  I don't think anyone minded.

We returned to places where we had seen flowers a few days before and were disappointed to see the blossoms were now gone, but were gently reminded of how quickly things can change.  And we were grateful that we had sat for a long time amongst them when we could.  Though I did not say it aloud, I thought about the fleeting blossoms as a metaphor for these quiet, spontaneous, and wonderful afternoons we have been enjoying together for years, he and I.  And how these are the last few weeks of this time we will have together, before the school year ends and our just the two of us times together will become more raucous with all of us being home, and how in the fall he will enter the world of full days at school.

The sun was out.  And it was warm.  The air smelled of the sweet fragances of spring...with, perhaps, a bit of chicken coop aroma wafting past.

If there had been a soundtrack piped in through hidden speakers in the trees, it would have been something instrumental, folksy, and happy.

For one last flower collection, I suggested we cut some branches from the blossoming crab apple tree next to the overgrown blackberry patch.

That is when things began to go wrong.

Over near the tree, Elliott remembered a clearing in the middle of the blackberry patch that he and Julia had found a few days ago.

Can you come in?

Looking down at my ill chosen tights for blackberry patch exploration while remembering that I wanted to say yes and extend the afternoon's perfection, I said sure.  We crawled in, well, I still had hopes for my tights so I kind of squat waddled.  It wasn't pretty.  And my hair was being pulled away from my head by the thorns we were dodging.  But, I was smiling, only slightly forcedly.

Because here was another area that the kids had found that I had never appreciated.  That's what time with Elliott gives me.  It reminds me of the benefits of being small and nimble and the different views his very child-ness gives me.

I turned and saw bird-sized bumble bees foraging in the apple blossoms.  They were seriously huge.  So, it may be that I did in fact have my back turned to Elliott while I tried to capture these bird/bees on my iphone.

But the next thing I heard was a mounting, low moan.   I turned quickly, causing a blur in my bumblebee picture and slicing my neck on a blackberry thorn, to see he had crawled up on the large root system of a fallen tree.  He was crouched there, and had probably up to that point been being all creature-ish, finding a place that felt right to cozy up into a nest.

He was looking at his pants.  And screaming now.  And I saw that his pants had become entirely covered in large black and red bodied ants.  In some areas, so many ants frantically circled that I could not see the very familiar navy blue of the only pair of pants he currently is willing to wear.  Due to their elastic waist band for speedy removal during quick bathroom visits at school (who wants to miss anything) and their fuzzy softness (he is a lover of all things soft and fuzzy) but not too thick for the current temperatures perfectness.

So these pants, with their holes in the knees, were swarming in what I now believe were carpenter ants.  I think I echoed his scream back at him.  I pulled him off the stump and saw that there was clearly a very large nest of ants...considered for about two seconds trying to turn this into a moment of natural world wonderment...and then glanced at my boots, and saw ants crawling up them toward my legs...thank goodness for my tights.

I plopped him down and did the only thing I could think of.  Without explaining what I was doing, I started yanking at those blessedly fastener free elastic waisted stretchy pants.  And took his underwear along for the ride.

At which point, Elliott seemed to develop an instantaneous and unexpected need for modesty.  He started yelling no! clawed at my hands, and yanked those oh so compliant and supple pants back up.  We struggled with each other for a bit, neither of us really in our right minds, and somewhere in there I began also lose the battle of saving my tights.  They were pulverized by thorns during this beautiful moment of mother and son love in our blackberry patch.  The taller-than-us bramble was inhibiting our natural flight desire so we were slowly inching our way out.

Somewhere in there I managed to get Elliott out of his pants and wrapped my fleece around his waist.  I threw the pants out of the bramble once I realized that by holding them the ants were now crawling up my hands and arm and were starting to...gulp...attach themselves to me.  I think I probably added to just how disturbing this all was to Elliott by then swiping, wiping, grimacing, swatting and turning in circles.  Who knows what I might have said.

We did make it out of the bramble alive and we ran into the open, and commenced to pull ourselves together.

Once Elliott was securely re-clothed in his second choice of lower half apparel, fleece pajama bottoms, I tried my best to lessen the emotional scarring.  We collected some of the ants from his abandoned pants in a Ball jar and looked up pictures of ants, trying to identify our specimens.

Elliott drew some pictures in which the ants were much cuter than they had been in ye olde blackberry patch, staring us down and trying to eat us alive.  Everything seems better when they are given smiley faces and googley eyes.  I talked about how they were helping that old stump turn back into earth, to enrich the soils that our backyard thrives upon.  He went along with me.  But he was still white around his wide blue eyes.

Daddy called and I asked Elliott if he wanted to tell him about what had just happened, smiling at him maniacally, trying to spin it into a terrific adventure.

He said he did, but then leaned over to me and whispered...

When I tell people, can we leave out the part about taking off my pants?

* Please know, I now have Elliott's permission to tell this story,
nudity and all, given what happened later that evening.  More to come.

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