Hello, Mr. Pretty Mantis

As I sit in the kitchen gazing out the windows, I hear the wind howling. I can see it moving through the skeletal remains of the deciduous trees and watch as it bends the pines. It’s grey and damp outside. It just looks cold. It looks like November. I’m already longing for summertime as I notice that I’ve forgotten to take my pots inside for the season. The one that remains on the porch steps holds the last vestiges of summer greenery. That was the spot that Mr. Pretty Mantis called home.

The praying mantis wasn’t shy at all. He moved in and made himself highly visible to the neighbors (us) right away. His favorite perch was the highest, feathery fern, to the right of the clover and overlooking the lavendar. Each morning, he was there to greet the warm morning sun with me. I’d enjoy my coffee and allow him to sit on my leg. We’d chat and I’d marvel at his big buggy green eyes.

When he first moved in, he was still a little guy so I kept him a secret for the first few weeks. As he grew, I introduced him to Joe and Gwen and let them look from afar. I explained how special a Praying Mantis is and instilled enough awe in their little minds to ensure there would be no panic induced squishing. As I invited him onto my hand, Joe whispered, “Cooooool.” Gwen made a tiny gasp and said, “Can I hold Mr. Pretty Mantis?”

From that day on, we all greeted Mr. Pretty Mantis with a smile as we passed. We often paused to say hello and let him crawl on our bare skin. We liked how he would raise his front legs and poke them out at us as if to box. Joe giggled at how tickly Mr. Pretty Mantis was becoming as he grew.

One day Mr. Pretty Mantis disappeared from the pot. I explained that he had probably moved on to a bigger, more comfortable home in the field. The kids were sad to hear about his move. “He didn’t say goodbye”, Gwen whined. Joe wondered what area of the field he relocated to and went off in search of his friend.

Sometime in late August I was weeding the garden near the front porch when I saw something move in the leaves of the lilies. It was large enough to make the leaf it was walking on slightly sway. It took a moment to locate him, but I would have recognized him anywhere. It was our old friend Mr. Pretty Mantis! He sure had grown. Out of habit, I held out my hand and he hopped on. He was heavy now and his sticky feet felt slightly creepy on my skin. I tried to be cool and he stood still. “Hey, guys!” I called to my family. Dave and the kids came around the corner and I told them that Mr. Pretty Mantis hadn’t moved away after all.

As I held out my hand, Mr. Pretty Mantis took off up my bare arm. His (several inches) long insect body suddenly felt too heavy and his sticky feet grossed me out. After my long “be careful” talk with the kids earlier in the summer, I struggled to maintain my calm demeanor. Dave saw a crack in my cool and started smirking. I looked at him, eyes pleading to come get this BLEEPing bug off me…NOW! He laughed. Mr. Pretty Mantis was on my shoulder now and heading toward my face. I screamed and stuck my face and shoulder in the hydrangeas to avoid squishing him. As I performed a frantic get-this-giant-bug-off dance, I carefully flicked him off my shoulder and onto the bush.

Having saved myself from Mr. Pretty Mantis, I pulled my body out of the hydranges and turned to face my family. The children were looking at me like I was insane and my husband could barely contain his laughter. They all turned and walked away. “Hey, but don’t you want to see Mr. Pretty Mantis? I called. “He got really big!”