I’m watching my daughter play with a bug. It’s a pill bug she plucked off Grandma’s lawn, the kind that curls up in a tight ball when you touch it. Only it’s not curling up. It’s making its way up Thalia’s arm, tickling her and sending her into fits of delighted giggles.
“He really likes me, Mommy!” she tells me. “I tried to shake him off and put him back in the cup but he likes me. He wants to stay with me.”
She strokes him with her fingertip. She examines his tiny feet. She gazes right into his face, as if this ordinary black pillbug were romantic as a ladybug or as sweet as a pale green inchworm. She talks to it in a high-pitched voice, the same one she uses when she plays “mommy” with her dolls.
She tells him that everything will be okay.
I smile and go back to my newspaper. I know that one day soon, she’ll say ew. One day she’ll learn from some girlfriend or another that girls are supposed to squirm when they see bugs, supposed to shriek and run away. One day soon she’ll learn that the worms she likes wriggling in her palm, and the daddy longlegs she likes tickling her feet are boy things. One day she’ll learn that girls don’t play with bugs when they want to be liked by other girls who don’t play with bugs.
But right now, I’m watching my daughter play with a bug. And I’m in love with her.