Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ant Pets!

January 15, 1983

Dear Ophelia,
"Today I got new clothes. I got two pairs of designer jeans, two shirts from the Unicorn Club--it's a shirt with a unicorn on one side very small (expensive), one purple mini-skirt, three pairs of short socks with hearts on them, a new pair of riding breeches, a new riding crop (my first one) and a shirt that looks really neat. Well that's about it, oh and a pink sweater so bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. I got all the clothes for about $100 dollars."
Jennifer was so happy to finally get designer clothes. It was the first time she ever got to shop for cool clothes. It was also the last time. Would her life have been different if she'd been able to maintain her designer wardrobe? Maybe she would have turned into a woman who enjoys shopping? She eventually stopped pining for all things cool and instead, rebelled against them. Maybe it's a blessing that her bittersweet relationship with apparel has kept her away from the mall (a blessing for her bank account anyway!).
January 16, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I rode David. I was supposed to have my lesson at 9:00 but me and Dad thought it was at 12:00. Carol said I could ride at 2:00 and the lesson went okay. I went to Lara's house and they had a blackout for awhile. I ate dinner over there. They have four people in their family and they bought four pizzas. Our family only needs one pizza. Well bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Lara's family was large. Her mom and dad were both over six feet tall and probably over 300 pounds. Lara, as you know, was already 5 foot 9" and her little sister wasn't far behind her. Jennifer and Lara were an odd couple. Jennifer, her brother and her dad were stick figures in contrast--tall and skinny. Jennifer literally ate like a mouse. When she tired of frozen food, a typical dinner for her was a slice of cheese and a hunk of bread. If eating weren't necessary for survival, Jennifer would just as soon give up the practice. So she was intrigued by a family that ate and ate a lot!
The other outstanding memory Jennifer has about Lara's house is of the the ants. Ants plague California homes at certain times of year but they were constant pets (I mean pests) at Lara's house. When Jennifer first met Lara they sat down to watch TV. Jennifer noticed hundreds of ants marching in perfect lines around the house. She was terrified to get 0ff the sofa and too polite to scream. Surely the ants saw her and wanted to crawl all over her, inside her nose and mouth, until she suffocated to death! But big as Jennifer was to the ants, they didn't seem to notice her. They were on a constant march into the kitchen. When Jennifer realized that she wasn't on their menu, she relaxed a bit. Still, she watched TV with one eye on the ants!
The second outstanding thing about the ants was how Lara's family handled them. When Lara's little sister got off the sofa to get a snack, Jennifer paid strict attention. She honestly felt trapped on the sofa since she feared her footsteps would awaken the ants to her presence. She knew they wanted to swarm her just as she knew that a great white shark was waiting in the ocean to eat her.
So she watched Lara's little sister head off to the kitchen. Without looking down, the girl hopped over all the ant lines, found an untainted snack and hopped safely back to the living room. The ants didn't break their lines or even look up as her shadow passed over them. Jennifer realized two things--ants really don't care about people and Lara's family didn't really care about the ants. They had learned to live with the ants. They weren't even embarrassed about them. No one said to Jennifer, "sorry about the ants", or "we're having a little ant problem", or "please excuse our little friends." There was no acknowledgement. If she didn't see the family step over the ants, Jennifer would have thought they didn't see them at all.
When Jennifer needed a drink, she copied Lara's sister--except she looked down! Jennifer hopped over all the lines and made it to the kitchen. In complete shock, she saw that the kitchen was overrun by ants. The neat lines were broken. Ants were everywhere. It was organized ant chaos. Every counter top and the kitchen table was covered in mail, garbage and leftover food. The ants of course, poured over the leftover plates and doughnut boxes. They marched in and out of cupboards, they formed frenzied balls over a floor littered with crumbs. In this house, the humans were the ones creeping around in search of something to eat. The ants feasted! It was straight out of a horror movie. But the family was so comfortable with it that Jennifer learned how to get by.
She learned that the bedrooms were safe. She learned that the ants stayed in their perfect lines as they came to and from the kitchen. The living room was safe as long as you knew where the lines were. They changed slightly every day depending on where the latest doughnut box was left in the kitchen. Jennifer memorized the new formations every time she came over. She learned to eat food straight from the refrigerator or straight from the store. When Lara's mom came home with groceries--her daughters and Jennifer raided the bags before the ants could. She also learned never to set her food down even to go the bathroom.
The sofa was sacred ground--no food or garbage allowed. Mind you, it was allowed everywhere else--but where would they watch TV if the ants took over the sofa? Jennifer left a wrapper on the sofa once and they looked at her as though she'd been raised by wolves. New garbage clearly belonged in the kitchen. Not in the garbage can because it was already full--but on the table or on the floor--a sort of offering to the ant gods to keep them away from the important areas of the home (it's funny how quickly one learns local customs, humans are so adaptable).
Jennifer also learned to wash a dish before she used it. The family's dishes were not cleaned and put away in the cupboards. They were left on the counter. The ants cleaned the food off and then the humans washed the plate when they wanted to use it again--now that's teamwork. Jennifer learned that if one followed these simple systems, one could live quite well with ants!

Ants as pets? Well they do work hard...

As I'm writing ant scout just scurried across my keyboard. Is what I'm writing about coming true??? Am I in a movie? Am I being punked? (When I finish this entry, I think I'll write about winning the lottery!)
January 17, 1983
Dear Ophelia,
"Today I wore my mini-skirt and a unicorn shirt. I am very skinny though. I wrote a poem today called The King's Duel. Lara came over for awhile. I still love Randy. Maybe you can get us together? Well, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."
Jennifer's house was always spotless. Her dad did not allow messiness. He hired a maid to clean every other week and he kept it clean in between. Remember, he spanked Jennifer once just for leaving a glass out. Jennifer's own room was often messy and she did have ants for awhile in her bedroom--but her dad and brother were both neat freaks. Daniel even alphabetized his bookshelf (mostly so that he would know if Jennifer took a book--he even issued her a "library" card). The bathrooms sparkled in spite of her bachelor dad and teenage brother (or maybe they sparkled because of them! Jennifer has always been allergic to housework.) In fact, the only slob in the home was Jennifer.
Of course Lara enjoyed coming over! Lara probably appreciated the cleanliness at Jennifer's and Jennifer didn't judge the sloppiness at Lara's! In this sense, they were a good match.
Did you have a friend who had a very different home life from your own?


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks for visiting Patricia! I'm so glad you are enjoying the blog.


Thank you for reading The Jennifer Diaries!