We’ve had a lot of fruit flies in our house this autumn, and a few weeks back, I wrote about my wife discovering the apparent source: a peach that had been overlooked for a week in my 6-year-old’s thought-to-have-been-empty snack bag.
We’ve nonetheless continued to battle the pests, and we’ve been swatting at regular houseflies, too, in numbers we’ve never previously seen. It’s not biblical plague proportions, but the bugs are certainly annoying. My 1-year-old son has started suddenly flinging one arm out like he’s snatching something out of the air—a move I thought was a random baby exercise until my wife pointed out: “Honey, he’s imitating you.” I do tend to grab angrily at passing insects.
A few days ago, my daughters were playing under our dining room table—a large, solid, wooden circle that’s at least 100, maybe 150 years old.
It’s got wooden wheels and a system for expanding, leaf by leaf by leaf by leaf, into a massive dining platform. There are nooks and crevices underneath to hide pegs and latches and all sorts of hand-carved and -forged details.
The girls were chatting and laughing and then went silent. Mostly silent. They started whispering and giggling in about an 80 percent attempt at being secretive / 20 percent attempt at catching my attention that they had a private joke.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
They erupted in guffaws.
“Girls? Girls … .”
I was sure they were up to no good, so I approached the table. One of them said, faux-guiltily, “We hid this.” A hand popped out from under the tablecloth, between two chairs, holding something oblong and black and—oh no.
“Is that a banana?”
More laughter. Harder laughter.
“How long has it been there?”
The reply was vague, which isn’t unexpected from kids who still occasionally mix up yesterday and tomorrow. I got the impression that the fruit had been there for more than several weeks. Months, maybe. My oldest daughter theorized that she had stuffed it there around when we first moved in—about three years ago. I know that’s impossible.
I took the thing—shriveled, hard, grotesque, like the body of some lost wanderer dredged up from a bog. A mummy.
“We don’t hide food,” I said, which was a false statement. We, as a family, hide food all the time. My son stores bread crusts, tortilla pieces, and cereal—pretty much anything on the grain tier of the food pyramid—between our futon and a recliner. Which puzzles me. We feed our kids well. We feed them often. But still I shove the vacuum attachment into the gap between the seats and listen as the diverse array of baked goods rattles up the hose and into the canister.
They can’t be storing away food for the leaner months. We don’t have leaner months.
My best guess is that it’s a game, with the food serving as just another toy. A perishable, fly-incubating toy. There were obvious signs that the hidden banana had been a popular spot, like a Make-Out Point for insects.
Some days, the dolls and blocks and games don’t cut it. That’s when the pots and pans come out. Or one girl slips her feet into my sandals and starts talking with as deep a voice as she can: “Hey, I’m Daddy.” Or, apparently, a lunch item is secreted away, like some disgusting parody of an Easter egg hunt.
I’m thankful for their ingenuity and imagination. But I prefer it when they choose to apply that creativity to stuff that doesn’t rot.