Monday, April 2, 2012

Cicada Springtime

When Jack was turning 5 and Margaret was 2, we had the 17 year Cicadas here in Virginia. The only time I’d experienced them before was, well, 17 years earlier when I was a teenager. I didn’t give them much attention then, just flicked them off my towel when they interfered with “laying out” in my bikini in the backyard.

In 2004, however, I was in my 30’s and I got into cicadas BIG-TIME. I knew it would be the only time they would appear during my kids’ childhood, and I wanted to make the most of it. So while some drivers were freaking out and running into lampposts when wayward cicadas got into their cars, I was letting Jack give his "favorite" ones rides to and from the preschool playground so they could have “a change of scenery.”

We would search our tree trunks for signs of cicadas emerging from their shells, or exoskeletons. It was a-ma-zing to see that in action! We put up with the incessant noise of their mating calls, because we found the red-eyed creatures so fascinating. Jack held the live ones cupped loosely in his hands, and collected hundreds of empty shells in an old spaghetti sauce jar.

I remember looking out the kitchen door one day at his stricken face. He clutched his jar tightly as a live cicada crawled up his neck toward his ear. “It crawled all the way up me but I couldn’t get it or I’d ‘dwop’ my exo'skeya'tons!” he said, in his serious little voice after I’d scooped the huge insect off his scrawny little neck. That jar still sits on the dresser in Jack’s room; in fact, it freaked out a German exchange student who slept in there last August. She had never seen such a thing and was afraid “the creatures” were alive.

So we made the most of the cicadas. We bought Jack a cicada t-shirt, which he wore for the next 5 years. We discussed how some people were celebrating our cicada spring by eating them…covered with chocolate…but we never tried that. I took my all-time favorite picture of Jack covered with the cicada shells. The entertainment value the bugs brought to this stay at home mom and her kids during those long spring days was well worth the time I had to spend later, shoveling rotting cicada carcasses into the trash can with a snow shovel.

You see, the cicadas didn’t live long. They came out of the ground, molted, courted, mated, laid eggs, and died. Start to finish? 4-6 weeks. I remember talking to the kids about what I considered to be the cicadas’ pathetic life cycle. I mean who wants to wait underground for SEVENTEEN YEARS just to come out, sing a few songs, lay some eggs, and then DIE?????

We did the math and figured out that Margaret would be 19 and Jack 21 when they came back. And Good Lord, I would be in my FIFTIES! It would be a very long wait, but I enjoyed thinking that in 2021 we would reminisce about our Cicada Springtime.

But now Jack won’t be here to see them, and I’m probably going to need to hibernate underground at bit myself that spring just to get through the ordeal. Because never in a million years did it cross my mind that both my kids would not be around to see the cicadas again. I mean, I worried a bit about myself, since my mom died at 46, but I barely even allowed myself to go THERE in my mind.

And Jack’s short time on earth, followed by what is going to seem like a hell of a long wait for his mom, dad, sister, family and friends to endure until we are together again, makes 17 years not seem so bad.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

He is such a beautiful child and obviously had such an endearing sense of humor. It is strange to feel love for someone whom I have never met. Thank you for sharing him.

Stimey said...

Your kid was one of a kind, Anna. And you are a one-of-a-kind mother. That photo is phenomenal. Love to you.

Amy McC said...

Love that photo!! Jack was (and is) so lucky to have such an awesome mom.

Anonymous said...

OMG you have no idea the amount of freaking out i would do about crickets. I have this ridiculous fear of them, brought about i think by my brother chasing me with them, to the extent that i've actually been trapped in buildings, and punched my husband in real life because in my dream he wouldn't kill one. Jack was such a handsome, sweet and much more rational child than i.

Karen L. said...

What a picture! Jack was for sure more-than-a-typical boy with his love for all God's creatures, even those disgusting insect types. :)
He was a great kid raised by loving and fun-loving parents. God will surely use this blog in so many lives; it will not "return void"-----that's a promise.

SG said...

We don't know each other. I began reading your blog after seeing a link to it on Twitter. After Jack's passing. I haven't posted a comment yet because I'm never quite certain that I, some random person, could ever provide you with even the smallest amount of comfort through a bunch of sentences written in a comment box. But today, I feel compelled to comment.

Through your posts, not only does your tremendous love for Jack and your family shine through, but so does your pain. I'd like to think that with each post you share and we comment on, one of us random people can lift a teeeeny, tiiiiny piece of your grief. But that's just wishful thinking.

From what I've read, you have given Jack (and Margaret) so much love, so many memories, so ...MUCH.

From one random girl in NJ, I want you to know that the stories you share are so poignant. You share your love, fear, pain, grief, joy - and that's something that takes tremendous courage. This blog and these posts might be here for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that YOU are HELPING people who aren't as brave as you to share their grief.

I wish there was something that I could do for you. All I can do is say that I am so incredibly sorry for your Loss.

Geri said...

Oh lord that child is beautiful. My sister told me after our mother died that one of the first things she said to her husband was that "it's going to be such a long time until I see my mom again". Thank God the day will come, when we all get to be with our loved ones again.

Salvimom said...

Anna,

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but I know its lovely to hear--you are such an AWESOME mother. You really have taken your children's experiences to heart, even if it means you will be uncomfortable, or have to sacrifice for them. I wish all mothers would do the same, especially considering some of us may not have much time with our little ones. Bless you a hundred thousand times over. I pray you and your family receive "an inch" more of peace each day that passes. Sending love, prayers and more love your way. May God carry you through.

Ury
Seattle, WA

Sharon M. said...

Thank you Anna, for sharing this story about Jack, who I never knew but think of every day. I think we must have had the same cicada summer here because I remember my oldest sister, Kathy, playing a trick on my sister, Margaret, and putting the dead cicada shells under her bedspread. When Margaret went to bed she freaked out and was soooo mad at Kathy! We didn't appreciate them the way you and Jack did.

As always, you Margaret and Tim are in my thoughts and prayers. XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXO

Aimee @ Smiling Mama said...

I'm a bit of a lurker here and think of you and Jack (and keep you all in my prayers) so, so often. I thought you might enjoy knowing about the annual Cicada Crunch 5K which takes place at our town's annual celebration. It started in the year of the cicadas and the name has just stuck as sort of a town-wide inside joke :)

http://www.cheverlyday.com/cicada-crunch-2012.html

mgh said...

Jack was one lucky kid to have you for a mom. In his short little life her really got to LIVE and LEARN and LOVE. With Emma going to college this year, I have been surrounded by kids who have missed this as their parents are constantly coaching and coaxing them towards job security and scholarships and being their best at everything they do.
I love this picture. I love that, for whatever reason, you understood the value of living and learning in the moment even if you never wanted him to be a bug expert.

Anonymous said...

I remember that year because it was around the time of my senior year prom and all of us girls were walking in our heels crunching on cicada shells. How fun that you made the whole experience such an adventure for Jack. I'm sure that is something he always treasured. Somewhere, Jack will see those Cicadas come back in another 9 years!

Laura said...

I love each new story about Jack - which so often come hand in hand with another example of what a fabulous Mom you are. Jack and Margaret are certainly blessed with one of the best.
What an outstanding photo.

Pamela said...

I love that photo too! I always take a long pause to look at it at your house. I missed it on the fridge and was delighted to rediscover it on the bulletin board. I am fascinated by it but it makes me itchy. I can totally hear Jack's voice in your quote. Thank you for sharing it.

ALI said...

Anna - thank you so much for sharing. I can only offer hugs and prayers.

I hope they find you & hold you tight.

Susie said...

Dear Anna, My heart hurts..I just read your posts. I am so sorry about the loss of your sweet child. The picture with the cicadas, seems so special. May God hold your heart. xo, Susie

Cat Alford said...

What a lovely example to enjoy the moments like that. Sounds like your cicada spring was a mom win for sure. :)
xo
Cat

Anonymous said...

awesome picture... and those eyes!!

Anonymous said...

This comment is short because BUGS REALLY FREAK ME OUT, but

that is one precious, adorable child.

That's all.

Domestic Diva said...

That is an amazing and adorable picture and what precious memories you have of that!

NanaDiana said...

What a wonderful memory....a memory made fonder by a Mom that didn't freak out and let her child enjoy the process of a life cycle. xo Diana

Shell Flower said...

Cicadas are so cool. Jack is so cool, and so are you for seeing the beauty where so many see creepy bugs. Kind of a metaphor for Jack's short life. Sad, but sweet and such a nice memory.

Vodka Mom said...

Oh God.

i hear your voice when you say "I will be here and he will not".

But remember Margaret, you, your husband, and Jack's spirit. They all have high expectations.


And so do I.

DawnGes said...

What a wonderful memory and a great reminder to savor the small things even while they're bugging us...

Thank you, Anna.

Lisa said...

What a precious boy! Reminds me of "snips, and snails, and puppy dog tails".

No, no one could have let their minds "go there". I am so sorry...

Michele from IL said...

Anna, I love how young Jack pronounced "exoskeleton".

alexandra said...

He really is such a cute boy, and my heart is breaking for you, as it does each time I read your thoughtful, beautiful posts. You are so blessed to know that you made the most of the time you had with him, that he knew he was loved, that you can look at those years and know that they were not squandered. I am so sorry you will have to endure continual reminders of your loss. Your faith that you will be together again is beautiful and inspiring. I believe it is true, too. Sometimes I feel like I understand what it means to see through a glass darkly, and the joy of knowing that someday it will be face to face, again.

Lesley T. said...

Anna, you are such a gifted writer. Your memories of Jack emotionally affect everyone who reads them.

Cicadas, Legos, all the little reminders of a sweet, wonderful boy who left too soon.

Anonymous said...

what a cute boy and you are an amazing mom. I had to shower after looking at the photo of all those critters so would not have been able to deal in real life. Good for you and for Jack to get to enjoy those creepy critters.

Loving thoughts and prayers to you over this holy week.

Theresa

Mrs Changstein said...

Anna, still thinking of you & praying for you. You're an amazing mom...remind me of my sister...a calling to be a mom, and serving God that way with every fibre of your being. You were blessed with such a wonderful boy...and he was equally blessed with you. Luv & prayers, Cindy xo

Mahwish said...

Dear Anna,
Your writing makes me feel your pain and I've not known how to express myself but your last post me understand why its important to say something. Anything.
Lots of thoughts & prayers for you & your family from Dubai.
Mahwish.

Anonymous said...

Brave Jack!
Anna, the love Jack had in his short life, so many do not get in a life time. You were and still is an awesome mom!
xo
Joyce

The Bipolar Diva said...

Meredith Self said...

What an incredible picture and a beautiful story of you and Jack! How was Margaret with the cicadas?!?

As usual, your talented writing connects me deeper with Chad, Amma, life. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I've posted here before. I moved to your town in July and have a little boy and a baby girl, about the same distance apart as yours.

Today my son was home from daycare with pink eye. Although his eyes look red and gunky he feels totally fine, so obviously he didn't want to stay inside and rest on such a glorious day. We went to McDonald's, and instead of driving straight home, I decided to take a drive around town, since it is so beautiful and I wanted him to get to spend some time outside, even if he can't get out and play where other kids are. He was perfectly content to drive along with the window down, munching his McDonald's, so we kept driving. I found myself in an area of town I had not been in before, and I knew it had to be your neighborhood. You have written before about the blue ribbons. I've seen a few of them near where we live, but what is going on in your part of town is astounding. I wish your readers could see it. Blue ribbons, as far as the eye can see, on streetlights, fences, mailboxes, street signs. Everywhere. It was one of the most moving sights I have ever seen. I now know what you mean when you said that each one feels like a hug. It is a truly awesome sight.

Theresa O said...

Wow, what an awesome pic, awesome story and what an awesome mom you are! I to remember the cicadas,Zach was 4...and loved them as much as Jack did! I on the other hand did not take them for car rides. : ) Your story made me tear up, and seeing Jack's sweet face in that picture definately brought tears to my eyes. I don't think there is a day that I don't think of all of you. Always praying for you....

Anonymous said...

Praise God that our time apart from Jack is only for a cycle...granted it will feel waaay too long...but as believers in Jesus Christ we do know it is only for a cycle. Jack's faith that Easter is not just about eggs and rabbits and chicks, but about God's loving victory over death through Christ's dearh, burial and resurrection. My prayer is that every blog reader will look at who they are in relation to Christ. We don't know the end of our earthly cycle...the day or hour of our passing, but I know Jack wants us all to find victory with Jesus...because our next cycle is for an eternity (John 3:16). And you know what, I'm encouraged by Jack's life verse (Luke 1:37) that even those most skeptical will check out Christianity this Easter!

Love you! Karen

Amy said...

I love that picture. What a great mom to celebrate that summer!

Kara said...

I love that you went bug-crazy for your guy. Just an amazing family.

Jen G. said...

I second what Stimey said--Jack was one-of-a-kind, and so are you Anna. Love and hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

So cool that you guys were into the cicadas!
Since I'm a little younger than you, I was still a kid when the cicadas came around, and my best friend (boy) and I collected them, scared each other with them, scared my little brother with them... it was so much fun.
The summer they came back, was my wedding in 2004. Definitely not something that factored into wedding planning. My parents had the rehearsal dinner in their backyard and those carcasses were everywhere. When Rob and I came out of the church after the wedding, one landed right on my dress. There is a cute picture of me, trying not to freak out while Rob picked it off me.
Kind of sad that my kids will never be kids while the cicadas are around. But maybe they will get to experience them with their kids.

You are such a great mom, and Jack lived a full and fun life! Thanks for sharing another wonderful story. :)

Beth

OSMA said...

I remember flicking cicadas off my beach towel too years ago. It probably landed in all the baby oil.

But how my heart hurts and clings to each word you share with stories of young Jack. Such respect and fascination with his world around him; the gift of curiosity you gave to him undoubtedly helped him experience life in a richer more meaningful way than most.

And how my heart hurts yet clings. It's the clinging I will celebrate for you.

Suburban Correspondent said...

That was the one year we were away from the area (thank goodness), and I have already made plans to spend the spring of 2021 elsewhere. Bugs in great multitudes completely freak me out. But there is something so poignant for us (as humans) in that 17-year cycle. And it is sad to think that Jack only got to see them once. How lucky he was that he had a mom who made sure he enjoyed them!

New Mom said...

You are a better mom than I! Those things creep me out! I pray that I can learn to be even half as excited about boy stuff like that. How special that you were so perfectly appointed to be Jack's mom during his short life here. Goodness, your heart must feel like it's already in heaven - and how amazing it will feel when the rest of you gets to catch up! Again, my prayer is that the good times in your life slow down and that the hard times speed up, leading you closer to your reunion.

Shannon said...

Glad to read those were the shells and not alive...very fun memory!!!

Camille said...

That picture could not be sweeter. What a precious face.

Jen said...

Oh, those eyes.

Good for you for hanging out with the cicadas! I cannot stand bugs and I had to shiver when I saw that picture!

Karen said...

We have cicadas all summer in Tucson. I'll think of Jack and your family everytime I hear them.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

((HUGS)) I remember the Cicada growing up in Illinois. I can't remember if my children experienced them since we moved them to California when they were still pretty young. I have actually never known anyone who embraced the Cicada like Jack. One thing I know is that I love how you have documented your childrens lives. I don't have these stories. The picture is amazing!

Leah C said...

You...and Jack...were cheated out of a lot of years together; but the ones you had, wow, you really made the most of that time. So many wonderful moments, so many wonderful memories. So bittersweet. Thank you, Anna, for sharing Jack with all of us.
As always, I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers. Warm hugs to you...

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say so I will just tell you that I am thinking of you, and I am listening: like so many others. The road to Jack must seem so long

Millie xxxxxxx

Heidi said...

That photo!! What a sweet face.
I love that you got so into it. Cicadas and anything that flits about gives me the heebie-jeebies. You are one brave soul.

Anna, I'm just sorry you don't have more time with your Jack. In the time you did have together you really lived it well, fully with him. I hope you know that. I know it's not enough, it could never be enough. In that too short time you were there...present and engaged and fun-loving and taking care and...I could go on and on...

Kent said...

Just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about you today Anna. Sending love and prayers and hugs your way - whatever you need!
Kent

Jennifer said...

I'm thinking of you this Easter weekend and praying that the TRUTH and HOPE of the resurrection are very real to you this year. Jack may be gone from this earth but he is very much alive - more alive in fact than any of us who still live in these earthly tents. I am so glad that you know that Jack is with his Lord and you will be together again. Hang on tight to that truth and I just pray that this Easter weekend God will speak such hope and comfort to your hearts! Nobody knows the day or the hour when Jesus will return but it might be sooner than we expect - and Jack will be there with him, ready to bring you on up too! Blessings to you and your precious family.
Jennifer

Vodka Mom said...

Ann, I can only imagine the many thoughts that go through your mind each day. And the many things your heart feels as you process each of them.

Your incredibly painful story has reminded us all of the fragility of life, the beauty of love and the strength that comes from faith.

I am wrapping my arms around you right now. I hope you can feel it.

takenit2thend2 said...

From another mother who has lost a child too... I understand all to well the journey you are on. Thanks for sharing your stories and warmth with others. However brief their stay here with us was, it changes our lives so completely...

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

Oh that sweet boy! I know Anna, never in a million years ...

Anonymous said...

Opening day of baseball always makes me miss my dad so thinking of Tim today as I am sure he is missing Jack. Baseball games were where my dad and I connected.

My parents lost a son before I was born and my dad was "stuck" with all girls after that. I hope Margaret and Tim (and you too if you care to) can enjoy the bond over baseball. So many of my best memories with my dad revolve around baseball.

Theresa

Katie said...

Anna, I was struck reading your post, and thinking "Jack is like a cicada". You anticipated his arrival for a long time; while he was with us, people couldn't help but notice him and their lives were affected by him. Sadly, he was with us for a short time, but there are constant reminders of him. Cicadas appear every year; some summers there are only a few, some years there are more. Like your memories and reminders of Jack, they will ebb and flow as the years go by. What an analogy for a short, yet powerful life. *Hugs* to you, Tim and Margaret

Renee said...

Now when I see these Cicadas along with blue birds, I will think of Jack too. He and your family are never far from my thoughts. Cute pic of Jack, but my skin crawled when I thought they were real and alive ones on him. :)

Princess Kate said...

We were out of town for a few days and didn't have access to the Internet and I missed your family. That sounds kind of funny to say but you are SO much a part of our lives that its true. You were never far from my thoughts. Praying for peace during this holiday season. Hugs to you all.

Aimee said...

Lmao...love that picture of Jack & the surrounding Cicadas! very cute ! What an adorable boy... I'll never forget those big adorable eyes nd his winning smile :)

Happy Easter to the Donaldson family!

PS- about a month ago, my kids and I were at Manhatten Bagel and we saw a father and daughter with Samaritan Purse blue shirts (I think they were going to a race) and I read on the back of the young girls shirt "In memory of Jack"
really made me smile! :)

The Empress said...

Thank you for letting us into your thoughts. I have learned so much, and you are part of my life now.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Love that picture! And I remember the cicadas from my teens in the exact same way (flicking them off my towel while laying out).

As much as you put into the time that you DID have with Jack - there should have been so many more years. I understand that - 12 could never have been enough no matter how wonderful. I so wish I could give you more.

Love you.

Ann Imig said...

Gorgeous amazing photo. And what a Mom you are. What an incredible mom.

S. Taylor said...

Once again everyone else has said more lovely things in their comments.
Thank you for continuing to share your stories with us.
I'm still here-sending you hugs and prayers from Michigan.

Lynn said...

Love, Hugs, and Tears.

Anna said...

Thinking of Jack as the cicadas come out in our town, which I figured out from reading are a separate 17-year batch than this one.