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August 14, 2009

The Redemption of Lil Jersey

The area between Lisburn Road and Stoner Drive is a peninsula of gravel, jaggers, thistles, and 12-foot sumac trees. It's the kind of place that harbors cracked buckets, unpaired sandals, and 3-tone cars that broke down last week. And of course the mandatory rusty fence. Situated near the intersection of Lisburn and Route 15, there's also lots of traffic and noise.

It's a no-mans land along the way and in the way of just about every destination you'll have around here. Like a slice of New Jersey dropped right into south central PA.

I hardly noticed "Lil Jersey" until a few months ago when Trout started talking about it. He's pestered me ever since he noticed a large yellow swallowtail butterfly perched on a clover, and routinely claims to see more swallowtails and many big black butterflies.

Sure. Okay. Mmhmm.

After months of claims and pleading every time we passed Lil Jersey (pretty much every time in the car), I finally broke down. We took our nets and bug jars, as standard, just to humor Trout. We sat our bikes along side of the big berm. Trout was elated and I imagined stepping foot on Mars, secretly hoping that nobody saw me wandering the badlands.

Then... Say!

Lil Jersey is loaded. Clovers covered in bumblebees and small white and yellow butterflies. And what do you know - a big swallow tail (we didn't catch)! The black butterflies were not a figment of Trout's imagination, but flying grasshoppers. Hundreds of them, and they are absolutely big and fast and black-winged and cool. I imagined that all the crappy conditions and noise serve the residents of Lil Jersey as "natural" protection from predators.

Flying grasshoppers are nearly impossible to catch, with the quickness of a grasshopper jump that transitions into a long flight. But at the Grasshopper Patch, there are so many in so little area, one will end up landing right in front of your eager net.

Trout and Ducks double dipped on a massive specimen for show and tell last week. Trout rarely show and tells anything that doesn't need holes in the lid of a jar. My boys are uber cool among their peers, for Country and Town Church Early Learning Center has never seen the likes of giant flying grasshoppers.

On the way out the door this morning, Ducks noticed the grasshopper and asked to take it for his show and tell. "Sure, you can take it - good idea" turned his complaints about going to school to great eagerness. I thought it was a win-win, until later Amy revealed that Duck's class of 3-year olds doesn't even do show and tell yet. Ducks again walked me right into our second preschool mistake in three weeks.

Does there have to be a lesson? I think open-mindedness is great but also has its limits. You do have to try things and give them the benefit of the doubt. Lil Jersey is a treasure trove for my boys only a mile from home. It's a source of joy and illigitimate preschool coolness because we gave it a chance.

To Trout, it's the Grasshopper Patch. He thanked me for taking him there. Reflecting over his bug jar packed with giant grasshoppers, he said it's his favorite thing ever. Ducks followed with a "me too." Ducks (current) favorite thing ever also came from Lil Jersey.

I said "me three."

I found my favorite thing in Jersey too. My most favorite thing ever.

[Surprising just as well, their mommy comes from the big Grasshopper Patch located between PA and the Atlantic.]

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