I spend a lot of time in the car. My to-and-fro activities are sometimes accompanied by music, but more often than not, I’m listening to podcasts. I’ve probably been listening to podcasts almost as long as there have been pods.
One of the podcasts I currently enjoy is Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins. Paul is a notable comedian whom I adore. He does a lot of podcasts but Spontaneanation is his newest one. It’s basically an audio improv show. Things run off the rails pretty quickly. The format of the show starts with a question to a special guest and then a short chat about that question is inspiration for the improv performance that follows. It’s fun! It’s weird.
This week’s question sort of struck me. One of those moments that sucks you back to a certain place and time. “What is the earliest memory you have of doing something cruel?”
I knew immediately of my memory.
When I was four, I didn’t possess a fantastic knowledge of insects. We lived in a house with a small front yard and a large garden that crawled uphill, littered with many flowers and strawberry plants. The flowers attracted lots of bugs – bees, beetles, ladybugs… and then there were moths. I can’t tell you why we had so many moths. But there were oodles.
And they were slow.
I would catch them in my hands. Their wings were white, covered with powder that came loose if you handled them too much. After the powder came off, there would be clear spots on their wings. …This is where my ‘catch and release’ program went awry.
I remember in my young mind noticing that their little green bodies looked a lot like the caterpillars I’d seen in the garden. I remember being upset that on inspection I’d tarnished their wings. So. I uh. I plucked them off, so the moths could begin again as caterpillars.
It didn’t seem cruel at the time! It made total sense to me. The bugs would go back to eating leaves and then they’d grow back new, beautiful wings! And while I no longer damaged their wings myself, I do remember inspecting any moths that would land near me to make sure their wings were in good shape. If not? Welp. I didn’t realize I was hurting them. I didn’t realize the green stuff leaking out of them wasn’t something relating to healing or regeneration.
I’m not sure when it occurred to me I was a mass moth murderer. Some years later, when the memory bubbled up, like it did today. My memories of early childhood aren’t always great, but this one is in vivid technicolor. Their wings, their legs… Like when Dorothy steps out into Oz. To that end, maybe it was vivid for the moths as well. A monster of a tiny pink girl in pigtails… coming for their wings. I bet they’ve named a monster in their mythology after me.