- Vol. 02
- Chapter 12
Image by Molly Baber
ImagoA clean child from a clean home, I loved to play in the dirt; I was drawn to it as magnet to iron filings – as clean child to dirt.
You’re a clean child from a clean home, my mother would say, Never forget that!
I never did. Yet wondered why I needed to be informed of this fact, since I had no notion of there being any other kind of home. I assumed all children’s soft bare feet scurried over kitchen floors that were washed every other day, swept every day. Clean enough to eat off! my mother would boast. Thought all clothes on small backs, on wriggling raring to go feet, on more-or-less clean bottoms, were clothes that had been washed to worn out cleanliness, to blinding whiteness. Thought the world of grown ups was as pure and simple as that. Thought dirt belonged outside in the garden.
My own knowledge of the world was confined to our scrubbed clean house, our dilapidated barn, my soon to be absent father, my mother and a baby I was told was my sister. Though I was having none of it – and in that I was half right.
For I was a Kafkaesque creature then, half child, half beetle, a child who liked nothing better than to grub about looking for grubs.
I would dig for them as assiduously as a jackdaw, ecstatic should I come upon a chafer grub – not that I knew its name. Convinced I was saving them from a violent death, I would store them in matchboxes, feeding them with crumbs from the about to be scrubbed kitchen table; thus preventing the birth of the bewinged creature that would have emerged had I not interfered with its life cycle.
I was a few years short of knowing the word entomology – or etymology, come to that. I knew the word spider, but not arachnoid, knew caterpillar and butterfly were one and the same, but knew nothing of larva, pupa, chrysalis or imago. All these pleasures were to come – as was the pain of knowing the true meaning of words.
ImagoWe stayed in our clean house until I was old enough to go to secondary school. By then the dilapidated barn in which I had ferreted for termites and woodlice had been raised to the ground. A neighbouring farmer came with his digger. Good riddance! I heard him say. Then he bought a load of topsoil and helped my mother rake it over, my mother, my half-sister and me sowing it with sunflower seeds.
I did not know the word paedophile then. Then it was not a word that was bandied about.
I remembered him as a handsome man, with long-lashed eyes and an easy smile.
The first time I looked down a microscope I thought of those lashes. I was looking at a fly – at musca domestica – and thought how deceptive beauty can be, how it can trick you into acceptance.