I thought I was over it. I appeared to have outgrown it. I was sure that it was gone and would never trouble me again. Unfortunately, like so many other things from the ’80s that should be gone forever, my fear of caterpillars has returned.
I was a very little girl in 1981, when gypsy moths defoliated 12.9 million acres of land in the Northeast. While some of my contemporaries have told me stories about their parents sweeping caterpillars off porches and walkways, I don’t remember any of it. This is odd, because I remember things that happened before 1981, and I also recall being keenly aware of caterpillars as a child. If I saw one as a toddler, I would scream. As a slightly older child, I avoided caterpillars to an extreme. I wouldn’t walk down any path that had a caterpillar on it. So why can’t I remember 1981? I think I would have noticed an army of caterpillars.
The armchair shrink in me wonders if I repressed memories of the gypsy moth invasion that contain some key information about my fear of caterpillars. But you know, until this evening, I didn’t care. Caterpillars haven’t bothered me in a long time. As I got older, taller and my face got further and further away from the ground, I stopped being afraid of caterpillars. A few years ago, after finding myself in an infested area of the Berkshires and having no problems, I figured that my caterpillar phobia was a dead childhood fear.
Not so.This evening, I opened my cold frames to pick radishes and found a thriving colony of green caterpillars.
I shocked myself by nearly screaming. My inner four-year-old was wailing and thrashing, but I ignored her and picked the little green jerks off my plants. Then I brought some of the greens in for dinner and carefully washed each leaf individually. I was just getting ready to cut them up when I realized that somehow, one caterpillar had escaped me. Sitting right under my knife, in my house, on my food was a big, fat green caterpillar.
I promptly lost both my appetite and my mind.
An hour later, after I’d rewashed everything, examined each leaf, and cooked the greens, I still could not eat them. I’m not typically picky about this sort of thing. I don’t care if an errant bug makes its way in from the garden, and I’m certainly not the sort of person who inspects individual leaves before eating them, so it looks like my caterpillar fear is back from the dead.
And why not? I feel like I’m always rediscovering things I loved as a kid. This week alone, I’ve rediscovered She-Ra, Weird Al’s Even Worse album and A Wrinkle in Time. So I guess I can rediscover old fears as well.
And that’s sort of what this weekend’s festivities are all about, isn’t it? Fear.