The cicadas are coming back on time, but the kids aren't.
Seventeen years ago I wanted to be that guy who took the photo and then re-created it when the kids were older. The one with the foresight that one day things would be different, but I would insert something to make it rhyme.
And so when the cicadas arrived on our windshields in May 2004 I had our fearless daughter (Jessie) pick up the fat bugs, calm her siblings down and pose with them. And then I imagined that in 17 years I would take the picture with bigger people and smaller-looking bugs.
We forget about these things until something jolts us and we realize that it's been 17 years and the bugs are returning and the singing starts anew.
Without notice I slipped into our room where we keep the dusty photo albums and prayed with outsized strength that I would find the evidence with old pictures stuck behind the laminate.
And then I found the year on the spine and turned the pages until I spotted the three shiny photos. I touched them and made that motion one makes nowadays on photos to make it bigger, clearer, as if it were a mobile device. But I couldn't get any closer to the photos, just as I can't get any closer to those kids who later that night probably took baths and got into their pajamas and were tucked into a bed in our house under one roof, with a book and a stuffed animal.
"The cicadas are coming" I told them all in a family group chat.
Seventeen years ago our family group chat was the kitchen table.
"They will be here in May," I wrote with excitement. "Here are the photos from 17 years ago, can't wait to replicate..."
But what I failed to grasp 17 years ago when they were ages 4, 6, and 8 is the same misguidance I'm experiencing now. At 21, 23 and 25 they aren't around for a picture. During the month of May they are at work and away at school. They aren't in the same city or even the same time zone, let alone the same house, bedroom or bath.
Cicadas are grouped into geographic broods. This year's brood will emerge when the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees.
My brood’s return is less clear.
And so trillions will soon rise from the ground clicking and chirping to a screeching pitch as they buzz, annoy and procreate.
I could not have imagined 17 years ago that the cicadas would arrive just as we are emerging from our own cocoon.
And so as the song in the backyard begins and I feel the power of nature's rhythm, I am reminded how ours has been disrupted.
If there is one thing we've learned from 2020 it's that making plans is a dangerous game.
I can hear their song in the distance.
A song seventeen years in the making.
But my photo will come.
Maybe not on my schedule. But it will come.