#838: A Happiness of Cicadas

September 4th, 2017

I detest stories about the wonder of childhood.

I detest the way they imply an innate happiness at the simplest of things is the sole domain of those who can’t yet drive, vote or depreciate noncurrent assets using the straight-line basis. Childhood is magic, yes, but there’s an inherent plaint in such stories that it’s the only magic there is.

“Behold the child!” the stories seem to cry. “Behold his or her wonder at the world because you have to behold it in others because you’re clearly a boring old fart who understood the ‘depreciate noncurrent assets’ line in the last paragraph.”

The wonder is out there for adults to see. Granted, having a kid around helps.

The kid in question was a friend’s kid, age 5 and pretty darn awesome. His older brother was awesome too, but not as into running around the park during a barbecue to point out every cicada shell he found on every tree.

“Found one!” he’d yell before going back to scanning the tree. “Found one!”

When a tree was cashed, every shell spotted, he’d say “Let’s check that one,” point at a different tree and sprint over to it.

Last year, I wrote a story about a new noun of assemblage for cicadas. Nouns of assemblage are those oddball trivia terms for groups of particular animals or things — a pride of lions, a flock of sheep, a murder of crows.

I picked “a sadness of cicadas.” It reflected the longing their tymbal screams make me feel, the reminder that summer is waning and soon all will be slush, frost and lawn chairs holding parking places. But the point of this story from title on down is that I was wrong.

The inch-and-a-half bugs of bulgy eyes and tree-clogging exoskeletons burst where a spine would be weren’t a source of sadness, but one of unending wonder and joy. The chirruping beasties were a source of, yeah, happiness. Happiness in a 5-year-old boy that somehow became happiness in all who saw it.

I detest stories about the wonder of childhood, even though I just got finished writing one. But it’s not the boy’s happiness I’m writing about. I’m writing about the happiness I feel sitting at my desk with the window open, listening to trains and cicadas over the sound of typing.

The kid’s long gone. The barbecue’s two days dead. The boy and his brother are back home now, presumably finding more things to feel awe, joy and wonder about.

But still I’m here, awash in the happiness of cicadas. I sip my coffee, listen to the chirrup outside my apartment window and do other adult things. The wonder is mine now, even if it took a kid to point it out.

Read the sadness of cicadas

Read about another cup of coffee by a window

Read about a different flock of kids

Five autumns ago

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You are currently reading #838: A Happiness of Cicadas by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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