Jumping Beans

An Essay By Beatrice // 12/10/2000

I have a cold in my head. My nose is runny. I have a cough. I’m behind on math…. gloomy. Probably our "Jumping Benditos" are the most exciting thing that’s going on. My brother Paul got some as a present, and at first they didn’t seem very remarkable. (How remarkable can a small, brown, dried up seed be?) What makes these seeds so interesting is what’s inside of them. These seeds hold within tiny caterpillars, who slowly eat away the inside of the seed. It’s this action that makes these seeds so neat, When they eat, the whole seed rocks! That’s why they’re called "Jumping Benditos". Though I haven’t seen them actually "jump," they jiggle, shift, and turn over! I’m keeping some of them in little, plastic boxes, and there’s something very cheery about hearing them clicking against the sides.

When we first got the seeds, I felt really sorry for the "poor" little bugs inside. I was envisioning a tiny beetle, confined in darkness, who spends his entire life stuck in there, as entertainment for little children. I know this makes me sound sort of crazy, but I personally really dislike being confined in small spaces, especially dark ones, and for some reason the whole thing just hit me that way. Of course, that was before I went to the website at www.jbean.com

Darkness, like that within the seeds, does seem repulsive--scary. On the other hand, there are ways in which remaining in the "dark" can bring freedom rather than restriction. Do you know what I mean? Like for "little" people-- babies, toddlers, and even 4,5, and 6 year olds. They are free, somehow-- free to be themselves, free to act the way they feel, free to sit all day playing… What I mean is, they aren’t always basing what they do, and how they feel on their surroundings. The "world" hasn’t made its impression on them quite yet.

I see this beautiful ignorance in my little, 4 year old, sister Cat (Catherine), the youngest. Just today she was proclaiming that she is the queen, the sun, moon and star of the house! She was defining her place in the family with gusto! There’s something so good about having someone who’s young enough to take things for granted and is completely happy to be waited upon, taken care of, and who isn’t concerned with so much of the world. This sounds funny, but if you have a younger sibling, I bet you know what I mean. Then there’s just the way she looks, still so little and sweet and her way of speaking, not yet perfectly. Maybe there’s something even reassuring about the way she can so boldly make her anger known…. Something refreshing about the way she doesn’t hide her feelings. Also, she’s so non--judgmental of me. As long as I’m doing what she wants me to do, I’m "Ok". She simply likes me.

What would life be without that "simplicity"? I, at least, find myself becoming so complex. "If only I hadn’t said that." "Why did I sit down before so and so did?" " If I do my math, and chemistry, and piano… then I’ll be okay until next Monday…" You know what I mean? I’m always planning, trying to figure out my life (which can even make things more complicated,) and altogether thinking so much about myself. Little people like Catherine, somehow, aren’t engaged in that whole world yet, and I think, maybe, that’s why I like to be around Cat. She sort of lets me slip a little back into her world of not scrutinizing everything, just taking life in little strides. Now, she’s hungry, now she really feels like playing with the "My Little Ponies"…

Just now, I took a little break, from writing, during which Catherine recited the alphabet, almost perfectly (with that huge slur, "L-M-N-O" and then "P!") She took me completely by surprise. I had no idea she knew it so well! She must already be a home schooler, at heart. At least, she’s in my heart… and always will be.

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