Sunday, June 30, 2013

Burlap Curtains and Locust Shells

Two things happened recently that reminded me of my childhood. First, I read this Facebook post by author Anna Quindlen:

"Can I get a cicada update from hither and yon? Ours seem to have progressed from deafening to loud to persistent, which perhaps means one morning we will wake to discover they are gone. Two cicada uses, one small, one great: when you drop one onto the surface of the pond and a bass comes at it like a torpedo, you instantly understand the genius of fly fishing. And when you think that this brood of cicadas will not reappear for 17 years, it makes you soberly consider the passage of time. I will be 77 when they emerge again--that is, if I am very lucky."

Second, I saw this picture on Pinterest with the caption "DIY Burlap Curtains":

In the mid-1960s, when my dad was in graduate school at Ball State University, we lived in the Anthony Apartments, one of Ball State's off-campus housing communities.  Although my mom had very little extra money to work with, she did her best to make the small student apartment a home for the six of us. One of her thrifty ideas was making burlap curtains for the window in the tiny bedroom I shared with my sister and brothers.  They weren't as long or as grand as the ones in the picture above, but they did have red and white rick-rack trim sewed along the bottom.  Because the apartment was so small, we spent a lot of time outside, and because our budget was so lean, we mostly did things that didn't cost any money like taking walks.  But as I've mentioned before, a walk with my mom was never just a walk. One of the things we did on our walks during our two summers in Muncie was look for locust shells.  When we found one, we'd gently pluck it off the tree and take it home where we would attach it to our burlap curtains.  On the rare occasions we found a locust (actually a cicada) still in its shell, Mom would tell us the story of how baby cicadas hatch from their eggs then burrow underground where they stay for up to seventeen years before they emerge, crawl up a tree, shed their shells, and begin their adult lives. So to me, locust shells have always been more fascinating than ugly--though I've come to understand not everyone (including my husband) feels this way! As I remembered those burlap curtains with the parade of locust shells climbing up them, I was thinking about about how much the world has changed since I was a kid. I don't know where my mom got the idea of making burlap curtains--maybe she thought it up herself or perhaps she saw them in someone else's apartment--but today, with just a couple of clicks, I can find dozens of pictures and posts of burlap curtains as well as hundreds of other clever, creative, inexpensive window covering ideas.  And when I was a kid, the authors of the books I loved to read seemed remote, almost magical, and not-quite-real; now I can read the wonderful, intriguing, everyday details of authors' lives on their blogs and websites; I can even find out on Facebook that an author I admire shares my fascination with cicadas! Yet, at the same time, I was also thinking how little the world has changed: people have always found unique ways to decorate on a budget and amuse their kids at the same time; cicadas continue to emerge from their underground hiding places, reminding us of their presence with their persistent singing and by the shells they leave behind.  Since I often worry about the world my children are inheriting, I like being reminded that change can be good and technology can connect us in ways I never would have imagined, but I also like knowing that some things don't change.

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