The Acorn and the Bumble Bee

Out of what is mostly otherwise a haze of forgetting, a couple of moments in my early childhood I retain with clarity. I don’t know what if any importance to attach to these memories, other than they are among the few that remain. They stand out more or less on their own and with little context, and seem more like dreams than anything else. But I don’t remember them as dreams. I remember them as moments of waking reality where the rules were bent, as if in early childhood this sort of liminality were normally possible to a larger extent than anytime later.

In the first image, I was very young – maybe five at the most – and it was a warm summer day. I stood outside the front door of my house, where I’d just come running out, perhaps following after other friends in the neighborhood. (Note: this is a bit of a disconnect here, because I don’t remember at that time having any neighborhood friends; that would come some years later.) As soon as I’d run through the door, however, I stopped very suddenly at the very top of the porch steps. For some reason, I was compelled to do this, just as I was similarly compelled next to raise my right hand, my index finger pointing straight up at the sky. After standing for a moment like this, something quickly dropped from above and attached itself to the tip of my finger. This looked like an acorn, but it acted and felt more like an insect. The rounded bottom part of the “acorn” was a mouth that opened and firmly fastened onto the finger that I’d unwittingly, yet seemingly so deliberately offered it. Something inside of the “acorn” pierced the tip of my finger like a needle. That is as much as I remember. Before this had happened, I’d never paid any particular notice to acorns, but afterwards, whenever I saw any on the ground, or still attached to the tree, they seemed very odd to me. They seemed reduced, somehow wrong because they weren’t animated. They didn’t have a mouth with a sharp tooth inside, or behave at all like the one that I’d first encountered.

The next image is from some time later, though I am still quite young and quite small. There was a corner of the sill of our large front window, where, closest to the front door and the entryway, there lay a dead bumble bee. I remember being impressed by the size and the strange fuzziness of this kind of bee, which was unlike all other bees. Over the course of several days, I would often return to look closely at this corpse, which lay otherwise unnoticed by anyone else in the house and undisturbed. One day, however, when I went to check in on the body, it had been replaced. In its place was a simulacrum, a stuffed-animal version of itself that was much larger, but similarly hairy as its actual counterpart. But this replacement was obviously a stylized fake – even a little kid like me could see that. Made from cloth, it had a crown-like collar around the narrower throat separating its head from its abdomen. This collar was cut along the outside with triangles in a radiant star pattern of many points, and had concentric rings of contrasting hue. Its face had sewn- or glued-on eyes made of discs of similar thick material. I remember feeling shock: someone older, my parents or perhaps my older sister, was aware of my interest in this dead insect and had played a trick on me. My world felt suddenly insecure in a fundamental way, as if I could no longer trust it.