‘Round about late March, a little paper wasp found her way to the wooden stairs of our apartment. She began building herself a home. For days, Cole was terrified of the wasp. But we walked around her, up the left side of the stairway. Up and down, several times a day, and each time, Cole would mention her. On the colder evenings, she’d be gone, presumably to somewhere warmer (really, I have no idea, but this is a fairly reasonable explanation). We’d wait for her to return. We’d come home from school and work, crouch by the stairs, and say hello.
We liked her. We watched as she built her little paper-wasp nest, a tiny bit bigger by the week. She worked tirelessly. Cole and I looked up how these cool insects makes their homes and how that’s where they lay their eggs. We learned the difference between wasps, hornets, bees, and carpenter bees.
Last week, one of Cole’s friends killed the wasp. After an afternoon of playing, the boys walked up the stairs before me. I carried two scooters and a skateboard. Cole cried out, sat down on the stairs. I knew what had happened before I climbed up beside him. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t.
“It was going to sting me!” His friend exclaims, indignant.
“She would never sting you. I loved her.” Cole looks into her nest. “She has eggs.”
I ushered the boys inside. I was pissed. I was sad. I wanted to scream at the kid. I didn’t, but it hurt my heart. It was a shitty thing to do. It was a thoughtless thing to do. It’s also… what most little boys do.
That night Cole, Matt, and I went to dinner later at Atlanta Bread Company. On his menu, Cole drew the wasp. He wrote her a note. Later, after his dad picked him up, I took our friend from the stairs, her body a squashed mess, and I put her by a big oak tree. I said I was sorry. And all along, I wondered if I had completely lost my fucking mind.
I don’t think so, though. It was a life. I’ve taught Cole that we don’t kill — not on purpose, ever. We take bugs outside and release them. We help where we can. We respect all life. And this wasp, over the course of two months, had become part of our daily routine; she brought us joy. It was a little life, but it was a life. We watched her work hard, day after day, to do her waspy thing. She hurt no one.
And while the life of a common paper wasp is insignificant to most, I’d imagine, and worthless to more, I’m glad that we grieved. I’m glad that we care. I’m proud of the boy.