My granddaughters, ages three and four, spot and pluck insects and worms from the grass with the precision of a starving-bird. My neighbor with the Venus Flytrap encourages them. I usually do my best to look away since I'm not a fan of slimy, crawly creatures.
Today, the girls built their insect castle of stones, sticks, dirt, and grass a few feet from my chair. I couldn't help but get involved.
Fiona stared at her opened palm. Tatum leaned closer to see what her older sister found so interesting.
"Is that my roly-poly's head?" Tatum asked with a hint of sadness.
Fiona squinted, her nose almost touching her hand. "Where?"
"Right there." Tatum pointed to a smudge near her sister's wrist. "By the green chalk."
Fiona twisted her hand to view the speck from different angles. She studied thoroughly before making her announcement. "No, silly. It's a baby caterpillar. Or an ant." She moved Tatum back a step and blew the grass cover off the castle. "There's your roly-poly. I think you stepped on it."
Tatum scooped up the bug. "I'm sorry," she said, hugging him to her chest.
Fiona placed her baby caterpillar or ant on a leaf bed and pulled Tatum's arm down to examine the wounded roly-poly. "I think she's dead," she pronounced. "You should release her so her mom can find her."
It was Tatum's turn to squint. "She's not dead." She studied her palm. "Look. She's slobbering."
Fiona amended her diagnosis. "She's going to die if you don't get her some food."
They admitted the roly-poly to a private room in the castle-turned-hospital, went inside, and returned with food. Together, they crumbled a soda cracker in what was left of the hospital after they each stepped on it, and left the infirmed to eat while they followed a million-legged, hairy, crawly thing making his escape down the walk.
I looked up from my book a short time later and noticed the cracker crumbs also making their get-away, in a slow convoy across the lawn. The girls spent the next twenty minutes watching ants haul crumbs home to the hill. Meanwhile, Gramma traded out the slobbering roly-poly for a fresh one.
In special circumstances, I can manage a roly-poly or a lightening bug, even if they're drooling.
Originally published 2006