As a youngster I was an enormous nature lover – I spent most of my days looking under fallen leaves for beetles and breeding tadpoles every rainy season – so it’s no surprise that Harry Butler was one of my childhood idols. I believed he was magical because every rock or branch he turned over revealed an animal of some kind. I wanted to be just like Harry and never missed his show, In the Wild with Harry Butler.
One day my dad and I were in our backyard when he called me over and pointed to a small creature attached to a tree. It was hideous. It looked like a cross between a tarantula and a naked mole rat.
To my surprise, my dad pulled it from the tree and held it out to me, as though I was supposed put my hand out to hold it. I looked at him like he was about to set me on fire and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I would not be touching it anytime soon.
My dad tried to convince me that it was harmless, that it wasn’t even alive and was, in fact, just a shell. But it was the creepiest thing I had ever seen and I refused to go near it. I didn’t believe it was just a shell; I thought it was alive and perfectly capable of biting off one of my fingers.
After many minutes of trying to convince me of its harmlessness my dad gave me a choice: I could either hold the cicada shell or I wouldn’t get to watch Harry Butler that night. I was devastated – it was like Sophie’s Choice!
I thought about how repulsive the cicada shell was and how much I loved Harry Butler. I cried and pleaded with him, but he was resolute. I came to the conclusion that my dad was the meanest dad alive.
My love for Harry was so strong that eventually I closed my eyes, held out my hand and waited for my dad to drop the repulsive creature in it. Suddenly, I felt the lightest touch on my palm, it was like a feather. I opened my eyes and took a closer look – it really was just a shell! I was instantly fascinated. From that moment on I was the cicada queen (and I got to watch Harry that night).
Not only was I no longer scared of cicada shells, I would seek out the live nymphs, put them on my shirt and let them hatch on me. I would then wear the empty shells on my clothes like badges. Cicadas were the most fascinating creatures I’d ever encountered.
One day I found an unusually large amount of cicada shells on a tree in our front yard and instantly had an idea.
Dad, thanks for making me hold the cicada shell. Mum, you can blame dad for that one!