Posted by: alegra22 | April 23, 2010

Cockroaches in Heaven

I’m not proud of myself, but I get vengeful towards insects when my anxiety is high. It’s just one of the ways I cope. I clean, I organize, and insects go against both compulsions.

People do all kinds of things to handle their anxiety; eat whole loaves of bread in one sitting, drink cheap beer, read the tarot cards, dye their hair, workout for hours, watch television, gossip, but me? I kill flies and pull out the label maker.

 And when I say kill, I’m not talking about anything as noble as the ninja-like-towel-snapping manuever my husband does. I charge through the room with a bottle of Raid. If I wasn’t holding my breath, a battle cry would be heard across the planet. I retreat, slamming the door shut. I huddle in the next room like a victim in a fallout shelter.

Later, I go back and I sweep up the bodies. Like I said, I’m not proud. I actually mourn a little when I see one of the flies buzzing around on its back. But then I think about how they land on my baby’s mouth. Or the one stealth fly sent to torment me whenever I try to nap with Joaquin. When I’m exhausted, there is an edge of sleep I have to trip over in order to reboot my system and wake up refreshed. This evil fly that continues to reincarnate itself, waits for me. It waits and waits. Just as I am about to trip over that lovely edge, it lands on my eyelid or my nose, and pulls me back. 

When I think about these things, my guilt fades. I start whistling as I sweep and scoop those bodies into the rubbish bin. Tonight over dinner Sol and I had a very serious discussion about insects that might have changed everything for me.

Sol: “Do you not like all of the insects Mommy?”

Me: “I mostly like all insects, just not cockroaches, flies, or mosquitoes…

…wait, and maggots, I don’t like maggots.”

At the word “maggot” Dan glanced at me from the kitchen. One of those, “You started this, you’re going to have to finish it” looks he gives me when I open up a doorway in our son’s mind.

Sol: “What are maggots?”

I lifted my hands up in the air and wriggled my fingers, “Fly eggs. They’re ugly, gross little worms that grow in poo and rubbish.”

Sol considered this for a moment and then drew a picture in the air of poo, a fly landing on it, and little wiggly things. “LIke that?”

“Yes,” I said. “Exactly.”

“Oh,” he said, all seriousness. The idea of maggots didn’t seem to concern him. He had other issues on his mind.

“And do you not like cockroaches?”

“Nope, I don’t like cockroaches.”

“Me either. We both don’t like them. Mommy?”

“Yes Sol?”

“Why do you like the other insects?”

“They all have a purpose, they do something good…”

I went on to explain various insects and how each one has a job to do on the planet. I felt triumphant, here I was explaining the great web of life to my child, and then Sol dropped one of his bombs in the middle of my victory dance.

 “Why did God make cockroaches and flies?”

“I don’t know son,” I said, paused on one foot, my victory- fist frozen in the air. “It’s something I plan on asking when I go to Heaven. I also want to know why there are mosquitoes and flies.”

He then asked me what Heaven looked like, and having never been there personally in any way that I can remember other than a few dreams, I had to go with my gut. I sat down, ready for the long haul.

“It’s beautiful, son.”

“Are there cockroaches in Heaven?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Sol cocked his head and smiled, “I think you don’t think there are cockroaches in heaven because you and I don’t like cockroaches. But if God made cockroaches here, they’d be in heaven too.” As he spoke he gestured at the room, the floor, the space between our bodies, and I couldn’t help but feel like it was one of those moments.

I’m not saying the flies aren’t going to die. But from now on, all fly-killing activities will be followed by prayer and a eulogy. Just in case cockroaches and flies have a heaven too.



  1. Oh, aren’t children wise? This is so great..and beautifully written..

    Potato bugs. They’re on my list. Did you ever see them in califorina? they give me the shivers!

  2. I’m picturing Sol saying cockroaches like Tony in Scarface. Cock-a-roaches!

    • Give it a slightly British accent and you’re on track!
      Between picking up my American accent, my kids sound like a cross between British and Brooklyn. It’s hilarious (well, to me it is)

  3. The kid’s a genius. I don’t like: flies (including fruit and pomice flies), mosquitoes, maggots, cockroaches, fleas, ticks, bedbugs, or leeches (which technically aren’t insects, but whatever). I’m also not too crazy about hornets, wasps, and bees, though honey bees and bumblebees get a pass.

    • Agh! I didn’t remember all of those other insects! I was actually wracking my brain as he asked me this for all of the insects that don’t have any purpose but to channel vengeance towards…
      …and yeah, Sol’s brain scares me a little. I see a future in which I am not going to be able to keep up with him.

  4. Hi Alegra!
    I’m visiting all the contributors to The Motherhood Muse…love your blog and your column.

    • Great to see you here and thank you.

  5. Sol is one profound little man. He basically wrapped up my whole view of religion in one short sentence. And, it took me a lot longer than five years to figure shape.

  6. What a great post! Sol reminds me of a parable I heard when growing up about a man who loved all Gods creatures except spiders and bees. Long story short, the man was wrongly accused of crime and hid in a cave – where a spider built a web over the entrance, so his pursuers didn’t look there. And then, he fell asleep in a meadow, and a bee stung him on the nose just in time for him to awaken and escape from the pursuers. What wonderful insight…

    … and yet, I still keep a flyswatter next to my desk and take great glee in smacking unwanted insects that buzz me while I’m writing and when I’ve got windows open on summer nights. I may start adding eulogies, too…

    Thanks for the beautiful story!

    • I loved that parable! Thank you for reading and sharing. I have to admit, the other day I found a cockroach and i couldn’t kill it. I put a cup over it and walked away (which might be as cruel as killing it, a kind of purgatory of sorts) but I just couldn’t summon up the commitment to do something either way with it. I think my kids knocked the cup over and the cockroach is running free through our house again…*shudders*

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