Standing in the backyard, soaking in rays of golden sunshine and contemplating landscape design, a small flash of red against the white and gray gravel caught my eye. There, fluttering among the delicate green blades of grass that insist on growing where I don't want them, was a tiny red ladybug.
Instantly my mind traveled all the way back to when I was in first grade. I don't remember if it was for Mother's Day or some other occasion, but my teacher one day had us make ladybug magnets. I believe all the kids really got to do was paint black dots on the "wings" of an already-painted wood ladybug. I was excited anyway because if there was anything I knew it was ladybugs. There were always copious amounts of them to be found in my front yard. I would delight in the tickle of their minuscule legs as they scurried across my bare arms and legs. Small margarine containers filled considerately with grass and with lids carefully punched with air holes became their temporary homes, cradled in my loving, child hands.
When it came my turn to paint, I carried images of these fascinating creatures with me. I knew exactly how I was going to make mine; I would scatter tiny black dots randomly across the bright red wings. Happily I picked up my paintbrush and began to bring my vision to life.
It soon became clear, however, that my vision of a ladybug didn't match the vision of the adults in the room.
The project instructions were to paint three circles vertically on each wing, with the center circle slightly larger than the other two. Even though I had painted what I knew to be true, I had done it wrong.
My days of warm sun, scratchy green blades of grass, and the gathering of ladybugs gradually slipped away, and over time I began to doubt myself. Maybe they had been right. Maybe real ladybugs didn't match the vision I had held in my mind.
Today, standing in my backyard, almost 44 years later, bathed in warmth and with the mile-long to-do list temporarily forgotten, it suddenly occurred to me.
I want to know ladybugs again.