The romance of Brood XIX (13-year) Cicada

Look closely at the undersides of the leaves.

All the music and outdoor sex is alluring, but that’s not the reason I find the 13-year cicadas so romantic.

Brood XIX began emerging in Middle Tennessee on May 7, 2011, to a cocktail of horror, dread and – I dare say – delight.

Those of us who’ve been here since 1998 know what to expect during the next few weeks: LOUD buzzing mating calls from millions of three-inch long, fat-bodied, locust-like, greenish insects with devilish red eyes.

The nasty things will collide drunkenly into you, your car, your kid – tangling themselves in your hair, tormenting your dogs, discarding their crunchy exoskeletons on telephone poles and window screens, and in giant piles beneath your trees.

The early risers are hardly a day from their slumber and already they are the stuff of legend. A friend said the other night, “Aren’t you the one who drove around with a laundry basket the last time they were here? So you could use it to shield your head from them whenever you got out of your car?”

Nope, wasn’t me, though I’ve been just as freaked out as most everyone else I know. I’ve lived in Middle Tennessee 27 years, so this will be my third bout with these buggers. I know they’re disgusting and annoying. But, thanks to another conversation with my innocently insightful 9-year-old, I am also reflective on what they aren’t.

“Do they sting?” No.

“Bite?” No.

“Mess up your flowers?” No.

“What about good stuff? Do they eat mosquitos?” No.

“Ticks?” I don’t think so.

“So what is their point?” she asked.

I had plenty of opportunity to ponder this, as cicada discussions seasoned the whole weekend.

At Shelby Bottoms, where I ran a 5K with friends and elementary kids.

At a beautiful seven-course Italian dinner in a restaurant normally known for its Southern meat-and-three menu.

At church, where new parents initiated their babies into our Unitarian Universalist congregation.

Mothers Day with family and friends.

If you say “cicada” enough, it sounds pretty. A woman’s name, a flower, a musical instrument.

Years from now, we’ll remember how loud these things are. How gross. How many.

We’ll also mark time with them.

“Oh yes, 2011. That was the first time I did the Shelby Bottoms race with the girls. When I went to Mangia Nashville with strong, lovely Courtenay and her sweet friends Emmely and Mike. We had three babies for the rose ceremony at church that spring. And Mothers Day was spent at Catherine and Joe’s; we played board games, sipped bourbon and toured her garden despite the trees full of bugs.”






10 thoughts on “The romance of Brood XIX (13-year) Cicada

  1. Pingback: The Sweetest Little Moments from 2011 « Knight Stivender's life in full

  2. Pingback: What running does for writing « Knight Stivender's life in full

  3. I agree completely with Courtenay – and I also agree with you that cicadas is a pretty word and we will remember wonderful things about the spring of 2011 when the cicadas were out. However, I found one of the “little” buggers in the house this evening (thanks to the dog) and they’re not romantic inside 🙂

  4. I was in Detroit last time around, so I only remember the ones from 26 years ago. They were sort of fun to play with (I was in 7th grade), and I learned a lot about insect anatomy that summer.

    • Oh, Andrew. Boys and girls are so different. I remember being chased around by boys who had captured them and thought it would be funny to throw them at us. Not much changes. Boys chasing girls, throwing weird things our way. 🙂

    • Thank you, Courtenay. I know we’re going to look back on this time wistfully. I may not feel like it now, but I bet… One day… We’ll have a certain twinkle when we tell our daughters about it.

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