Our house growing up was made out of a light pinkish-tan stucco that reminded me of a peach and made me feel safe. Apparently the praying mantises had similar feelings about it because they felt it was the perfect place to secure their eggs. For those of you who don’t know what a praying mantis’s eggs look like, picture shredded wheat with the consistency of old packing peanuts and shaped like an oval dome about an inch long. They were all over the side of the house, right where my sister and I weeded every Saturday. I had been peeling them off for years when a brilliant idea hatched in my mind. Instead of tossing aside the pried off egg, I would get to watch it hatch! I looked around, made sure no one was watching, and then shoved it deep into the pockets of my cutoff jeans.
I favored my hip while I worked, taking great care not to squish it and checking on it every so often to make sure it was still cushioned among the lint. Finally, I was done outside. I snuck downstairs while Ryan practiced the piano to show Lindsey my prize, keeping the lights off so nobody would discover us.
Lindsey was in awe of my plan, but it didn’t take long before she pointed out the obvious flaw. “There’s nowhere to put it, Leisl. At least not somewhere where no one will notice it.” She was right. Both of our rooms were so messy that they had to be cleaned often, and that meant an inspection of our cleaning done by our mom. She could find anything, anywhere, kind of like a ninja. Except….if we found a room that was always clean, then there would be no need for an inspection. The lightbulb in my brain lit up, “What about Ryan’s room?!” His room was always clean. So clean, I often wondered why he even had a room if he never used it for anything good, other than sleeping, of course.
We could still hear the plinking of piano keys, so we snuck into his room to investigate the perfect spot for hatching praying mantises. We searched every inch of the room for things to hide it in or behind, to no avail. Where there were dying plants and dried watering cups in my window sills, his held only two dead flies. While my dresser was covered in pictures, hair ties, and old jars, his was empty except for a piggy bank. It was even recently polished. We were about to go around the room for a third time when the piano music stopped, and we heard Ryan sounding footsteps descending the stairs. In a panic, I wrenched open his sock drawer and shoved the egg into a pair of tube socks in the rear of the drawer. Then Lindsey and I dashed across the hall and split up, going about our business for the rest of the day.
A few weeks later, after forgetting our little nursery inside the sock drawer, Lindsey and I were playing in my room when we heard a yelp of surprise come from Ryan’s room, followed by a “Girls!! Get in here!”
We were often getting into Ryan’s things, so we went in cautiously, not wanting to seem guilty when we didn’t know what he had discovered missing. He was standing over his sock drawer, motioning for us to peek inside.
As we peered over his shoulder, we saw thousands of microscopic praying mantises summiting his tube socks. “They hatched!!” I looked excitedly to Lindsey, whose eyes were the size of golf balls. Ryan stared at us with a look that seemed to say, “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t tell Mom.” I don’t know what we said to make him keep it a secret, but in a stroke of luck, we even convinced him to share one of his M&M Minis with the praying mantis’. We gave them a little bottle cap full of water, and though we watched over them with great care, we soon had a praying mantis grave yard covering the dresser. Ryan scooped up the three surviving babies and opened the window to set them free, hoping that they’d make it better out there in the world than they did inside. He then turned to me, giving me a look before exiting the room, calling out, “You’d better clean that up before Mom finds out!”
I was devastated. What had we done wrong?! Ryan had said they needed bugs, but they hadn’t even gone near the dead flies we had gathered from the window sill. “Ah well,” I thought, wiping my nose on my sleeve, “at least there’s a bit of M&M left.”