Friday, September 1, 2017

Running Into an Old Friend

In its glory years of 1959-1960 I was a member of the Hayward Public Library Bug Club. I've always had an affinity for insects. The wonderful woman who ran the Bug Club was Gladys Conklin, the children's librarian. She also wrote children's books -– about bugs. One of them, “I Like Bugs,” was dedicated to me and a friend: “the 6-year-olds in the Bug Club.” Many years later Mrs. Conklin, which is what I always called her, got Alzheimer's disease. One day the garden gate was accidentally left open and Mrs. Conklin wandered out. She was never seen again.

She would be happy, I think, to know that I am in Africa, which has plenty of bugs. Some are very strange looking and some are very large, others are exquisitely beautiful and some look good to eat. I've dined on the grasshoppers here. When I lived near Kampala, I had a conversation with Grace, mother of Elijah, about eating insects. It went like this:

Me: I ate some grasshoppers today.

Grace: And ...

Me: Pretty good, tasted like almonds.

Grace: I've never had almonds.

Me: They taste like grasshoppers.

Grace: I want to eat a scorpion. They look so good.

Me: But they're poisonous.

Grace: You take off the poison part.

Me: I knew that.

Then there are the bugs that don't get eaten. They get taken for a ride. Walking home today, I came across two schoolgirls going down the road. As I passed them, I saw that one of the girls had a big grasshopper sitting on top of her head. “Can I take a picture of you and your pet,” I asked. “Her?” she said, pointing up to the grasshopper. “Sure, I forgot she was up there.” I took the shot, showed it to the girls, riotous laughter ensued. I think I heard a tiny snicker come from the grasshopper. Perhaps her name was Mrs. Conklin.