Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Little girls can be very fickle, especially when it comes to bugs. Our daughter Zoe is a perfect example.

Recently a fly got into our house. It was very large and very, how shall I say it, buzzy? But from the shrill wail emanating from Zoe's room you would have thought that it was a pterodactyl!

Don't bring up the subject of bees when Zoe is around because this young lady is terrified she will be stung. Therefore, we steer wide of all flower gardens. This is one girl who will never smell the roses!

A millipede mistakenly entered Zoe's bathroom a few months ago. Unfortunately, she was right there brushing her teeth. The startled young princess let out a huge scream which drove Cleo, our Maltese, for cover under Zoe's bed. I swear the dog had its paws over its ears. Yours truly removed the intruder, but Zoe remained hesitant to re-enter her lavatory for several hours.

On the contrary, aren't lightening bugs wonderful? Zoe would always love to walk over to Central Park, little more than a block away, with a pickle jar in hand and her parents in tow. We would chase lightening bugs around the reservoir and through the apple trees that lined it. And when the jar was full of occupants, each beaming and blinking out distress signals, we would head back home with our collection to glowing reviews. (After Zoe went to bed I would release the bugs.)

As a younger girl, Zoe had an acute devotion to worms and slugs. Living in a townhouse on the upper east side of New York City we are fortunate to have a small backyard. Even though the yard is covered with paving stones, worms and slugs occasionally pay us a visit. Zoe used to be fascinated by them. She often would crouch down on her haunches and watch them slither across the yard. She would even try to pick them up. Now Cleo has developed an interest for worms. Nose to the ground, she sniffs them out and then, inexplicably, she drives the side of head across the worm rubbing its smell all over the hair on the nape of her neck. "Let's try the eau de worm please."

It turns out that Zoe likes slimy snails too. I first noticed it years ago in Miami, where I had an apartment for the seven years I commuted there to work. Each year I would bring Zoe with me for a few days during her spring break. My apartment was in a building on a small island called Brickle Key, located right downtown. Snails popped up everywhere on the island, especially by the pool. Zoe would catch them and put them in a mason jar with some green leaves. I would have quite a collection of guests by the time we were ready to return home. We once transported a snail to New York, but I later released it into the iron jungle. (Do you suppose those alligators in the New York sewer system got it?)

On my 60th birthday, Zoe, Susan and I traveled to Positano, Italy, on the Amalfi coast. What a spectacular vacation spot. But it wasn't long before Zoe befriended a slug. In fact, adopted might be a better way to describe it. We kept "Slimy" in a drinking glass with plastic wrap covering the top, punctured with small air holes. He, ah, it slept with Zoe and she would take it wherever she went around the hotel grounds.

When it was time for us to head off to Rome for the second leg of our vacation, Zoe insisted on taking Slimy with her. Slimy spent the remainder of the week with us in Rome's Parco dei Principi Hotel, and it got in plenty of time by the pool too. When it was then time to return home, Zoe asked us if she could bring Slimy to New York. Of course, I remembered the form I had filled out in the past when arriving at JFK, the one that asks "are you carrying any exotic plants or animals?" (Or something like that.) Let's see, are slugs exotic? I could only imagine what Zoe's reaction would have been had I been arrested for illegal possession of an Italian slug!

After much discussion, consternation and a few tears, we let Slimy go somewhere in the Villa Borghese park, across from our hotel. But, of course, we were not totally insensitive. We did give Slimy one final piece of advice, "When in Rome do as the Romans do."

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