Memory of a Moral: “The Ladybug”

Hello all! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. I’ve had a busy one so far, but in a wonderful way: Thursday night was a fundraising party for Marianjoy, at which I gave a speech; yesterday I got to visit Jeremiah and his family; and today (Saturday) I went to a lovely wedding. I will expand on a few of those in greater detail sometime in the near future. 🙂

Cover of "City of Ashes (Mortal Instrumen...

Cover of City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments)

I wanted to share a poem I wrote tonight–and also the interesting way it came to me. While I was driving home from the wedding I went to today, I was listening to an audiobook in the car. I am obsessed with audiobooks; I discovered their magic last summer while plagued with insistent construction on every imaginable route from home to work. (My dad liked to joke that they were following me.) My extreme annoyance at the lengthy commute turned to joy when I realized I could fill the time with books, and I could be safe at the same time by being able to keep my eyes on the road.

The specific audiobook I was listening to today was City of Ashes, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s YA Mortal Instruments series. Clare has a particular talent for creating a compelling plot with gorgeous imagery and characterization. In this book, she was describing a character who, as a child, lit the wings of bugs on fire because he liked to watch them burn. (Thank goodness this was fiction!) It made me think about how morals must be taught and developed, because we are not born with them. It also evoked an immediate flashback to when I was a child–six years old, to be exact. I was shocked at how vivid the memory was, not only because I was so young, but also because my memory in particular has had its challenges. When I acquired the traumatic brain injury, my memory was significantly affected–luckily, this was temporary, and my therapists and family helped me put the pieces back together. However, there are a couple of memories throughout my life that I cannot recall, though friends and family may. Of course, forgetting is a natural part of being human, so it’s very hard to tell if these memories are part of a “big purge” or just normal behavior. I think any injury brings a certain amount of over-aware paranoia with it. As for me, it’s very hard to judge what is “normal,” because my dad never forgets anything, ever, especially if it is embarrassing or incriminating to someone else. 😉

Another interesting exploration of memory is the way in which people remember. Everyone is different, and it goes hand-in-hand with how they think. Through some of my post-TBI cognitive therapy, I learned that I think and remember in words–not surprising, for an author. 😉 Indeed, I can remember specific words very clearly (to many people’s chagrin), but abstract images are not my forté.

That’s why I was surprised by tonight’s vivid flashback from a time when my vocabulary was pretty limited. It was also an epiphany, of sorts, because I realized for the first time that the memory was a moment when I learned a very important lesson from my mom. With Clare’s mention of cruelty to bugs as a child, I recalled the instant that I “grew up” from being apathetic about pain in things I thought I didn’t like.

I was looking for a specific quote from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan about cruelty and innocence in children, and I found this poignant commentary by a fellow blogger, Jenn Krohn (whom I am now following) in her post, “The Cruel Innocence of Children”:

Barrie points out that children are “gay and innocent and heartless,” which is a perfect description of children. Young children (stressing the word young) rarely bite or pull hair because they enjoy inflicting pain on others—they probably don’t understand that they’re hurting their victims—but rather they enjoy the reaction and the attention that it gets them. That is the terrible nature of children’s innocence: they are without empathy.  One of the burdens of growing up is understanding how our actions can harm others.

So true. With the flood of the memory and the realization of what it meant, a poem came to mind during my drive–so intensely that I actually had to pull over and write it down! So, without further ado, I’d like to share the poem I wrote with you. 🙂

“The Ladybug”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

I am six,
and you and I
are sitting
on the concrete blocks
bordering the tree
in front of our house.
My legs swing
while we sit
enjoying the breeze,
at a time
when I
was still shorter
than you.

I notice
next to me,
there is a ladybug
on its back,
legs wriggling
in the air;
I feel
when I mention it
to you.
It is merely
something to observe,
like a leaf
in the wind.
You tell me
you are going to help it,
and I don’t understand.
It is a Bug,
and I thought
our mission
was to kill them all.
No, you say,
are our friends.
They do not bite
or sting
or eat our plants.
The black-speckled rubies
fly through the air
and get rid of
the mean ones
for us,
and the least we can do
is help one
who has lost her balance,
who will perish
if her legs cannot
find the earth.
This fills me
with sadness,
and I look up
at the summer sky,
how it would feel
if you knew
that’s the last thing
you’d ever see.

You pick up a leaf
and take my hand.
we help the ladybug
to right herself.
She flies off,
and though I’ll never
see her again,
I learned from her
that Evil isn’t black-and-white
(or black and red),
and that our enemies
can’t be judged by appearance
or name
but only their actions.

English: Seven-spotted ladybug Deutsch: Sieben...

Seven-spotted ladybug (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “Memory of a Moral: “The Ladybug”

  1. Beautiful post Amanda! I love how you crafted the lesson of the goodness of the ladybug into your poem.

    As for memory not forgetting things – that is not so. Just like others I forget too. 🙂



  2. I was so touched by this memory…… it’s amazing to me how this moment became such an important building block in your life, and even moreso how you’ve expressed it here in your beautiful blog post.


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