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Ryan found a centipede, "with billions of legs." He quickly became as attached to it as the minnows he would collect in his bucket at the beach. "I'm naming him Legs and I'm keeping him forever."
I knew by tomorrow "forever" would be forgotten, but I went and found him a tupperware bowl.
He filled it with dirt and leaves, and with a magnifying glass, gazed into the centipede's accomodations. "Hey, mom, there's all kinds of bugs in here now. Ants and stuff. They must have been in the dirt."
And then one of those ants captured the centipede. A tiny ant was actually making off with the centipede, in comparison, the size of some congo snake.
Now the "billions" of legs were waving frantically, as the centipede twisted this way and that, trying to escape.
"Mommy, save him! Do something!"
I considered this. Should this wind up a life lesson about nature? Survival of the fittest?
"Mommy, please....." At the end of beach days, when he has to release those minnows back into their natural waters, he is equally tearful and calls out farewells to each one – by name.
His little brother had been wandering around the lawn trying to catch inch worms hanging from the sky. Although equally intrigued by bugs, he didn't get nearly as attached; he would collect worms then forget about them on the swings to dry out in the sun.
He came over to peer into the little tupperware bowl of drama. "Wow, that's cool."
"It's not cool, it's bad. It's cruel," Ryan lamented. In that way he might lament about how no one wanted to play his imaginary games of wizards and dragons on the playground. How he would wile away recess dangling alone from the monkey bars.
I pinched the ant away from the centipede and tossed him from the centipede's residence.
The centipede was still for a moment. "He's dead," Ryan announced in a devastated whisper.
Then Mr. Centipede moved. He struggled off his back with his billions of legs and made his way over to a leaf. I was surprised by my own tremendous relief.
Thank you, Mommy. I just want to see everything live. Nothing should die."
I thought then that maybe I'd made the wrong choice. That this could have been a lesson, however hard, about the fact that all things die. That life is just that: unfair.
Still. In the company of a child young enough to still kindle great faith in how things should be, I couldn't resist making this "forever" moment perhaps last longer than for just one day.