2020-10-19

when the ants go marching in

my childhood, as i recall it, was fragmented into pieces. bits and bobs, fits and starts, heres and theres. mostly due to divorce, god love it. there's no blame here. divorce happens. many fine people have them and are products of them. that's not the point. the point is this: my childhood had pieces. and some part of that childhood was spent in the baptist church. this will surprise some of you. it still surprises me.

i went to a sweet little country baptist church up in farm country michigan for a small stretch. from time to time i was invited to play the piano, as well as debut my singing stylings for the teeny tiny congregation, which on a good sunday would swell to maybe twenty people. during the holidays, perhaps thirty. it was a lovely little church that forever holds a place in my heart. and it was very white. on the outside as well as the in.

i'm not casting aspersions, just sayin' that for all my singing and playing, for all OUR singing and playing, this little church did not have, nor could it ever have, that rocked "in the bosom of abraham" feel of a call-and-response southern baptist gospel choir singing—nay preaching—to the heavens. and call-and-response is exactly the style of song that louis armstrong drew on for the tune "when the saints go marching in." this melody has been on my mind lo' these last few weeks as the heat of the summer brought us a plague of not locusts, but ants.

♪ 🎶

let me back up just a hot second here...

when we moved into this house a few years ago, it was december. no ants. when you don't have ants, you don't notice you don't have ants. you're not walking around all the time saying to yourself: look how many ants we don't have! but by the time summer hits, you've had an attitude readjustment. soon you find yourself being mightily aware of the little workers, roaming to and fro, whithersoever they go and for whatever reason. i don't ask. don't get me wrong, i'm curious. but, i don't ask.

when we finally experienced ants, we e-x-p-e-r-i-e-n-c-e-d ants. great good gobs of ants. it was awful. at the time, it seemed like ants were your home's way of telling you: "i need a deep cleaning!"

and yet, those run-ins with ants, bad as they were, were nothing compared to the summer of 2020. and why the heebie-jeebies not? it's not like there was anything else a tad bit adverse happening around the same time. (that was sarcasm, ICYMI.) (and that was an acronym used in texting. and in case you missed it: you're old.)

🐜  🐜

back to louis armstrong...

call-and-response is rooted in many musical traditions besides christian: african, cuban/latin, folk, classical, popular, even military music. it's when the preacher, or the lead singer, sings the first lyric, or stanza, and the congregation, or the choir, responds. they either repeat what the lead has just said or they add some twist to it--or follow with a new phrase entirely.

there are countless variations. but the point is that someone has your back. someone validates you. you get confirmation that another soul is hallelujahing right by your side. it's one more way of letting someone know that you understand them, you get them, you hear and commiserate with them. you're a witness to their sorrow or to their joy. it can be a wonderful feeling—especially if you're dealing with something, shall we say, unpleasant. and doggone it, you'll find it indispensable in keeping your wits about you while battling an unstoppable, unbeatable, endless battalion of ever-invading ants.

🎵 

when our little ant issue began this time, it was merely a problem. it's quaint in hindsight. oh, look, the ants are in the sink. oh gee, now they're in the recycling bin, well let's just put that outside for now. uh-oh, they're in the pantry. hey, how'd they get into that plastic bag? wha...?

the ants seemed to evolve. they could get into things that we had sealed up and ridiculously assumed were ant-proofed according to last year's ant model. last year's ants could not crack a ziploc bag. this year's ants were throwing parties in them. they had mad hacker skills.


hacker ant hard at work


our new ant problem needed more than one little tentative girl praying with her piano to a listening-politely congregation of ten or so. our new ant problem called for a more prodigious kind of prayer. we needed a choir, and we needed it pronto. and so it was in those early days of the pesky pandemic that we were there for each other. i say pandemic because it was global to our home. there was not one room in the house that was immune. it was all-skypeeps-on-deck. we got in there and took up arms against our foes, and by opposing, did (try to) end them. and what we did, we did t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r. one of us would spot 'em and the call would go out:

oh when the ants...
go marching in...

someone would appear and rejoin...

oh when the ants...
go...
mar...
ching...
in...

then those of us who answered the call would work together to vanquish whichever part of the kitchen was under assault that day...

oh the hordes!
i don't wan' be in the number...
when the ants...
go...
mar...
ching...
in!


if i was there first, fill_space (phil) and funkyunkymunky (zum) were often next to appear around the corner to offer succor. then DaYummyBurger (samson) would bring up the rear. everyone would grab a food item or piece of a cupboard and attempt to rescue some part of the kitchen, pantry, bathroom...bedroom. no area of the home was safe. the ants, they gave us no quarter.

the ants were so bad some nights that both phil and i woke up bitten several times, shooing away these invisible-in-the-dark predators. it wasn't as if there was a line of them coming toward us, either. no, it wasn't that easy to predict. they were stealthy. coming out of the shadow. biting ninja ants. biting all parts of me. my eyeball for hootin' owl loud! and one or two who tried to walk into my mouth. my mouth! kamikaze biting ninja ants. 


kamikaze ninja ant


not to be confused with
kamikaze ninja boy...
samson (circa march 2017)
pre-ant invasion, a.k.a. happier days


it got so bad we had to take not only our recycling bin outside, but the trash, too. we had a little bowl with a bag inside that we would keep the trash in during meal prep. we'd take the bag out when we were done. that's where the trash lived now. it just sat out there and thought about what it did. bad trash! 

we stopped using our dishwasher when the marauders wouldn't leave it alone, at which point we began hand washing everything. apparently hand washing is still a thing in some places of the world. like ours. in 2020. 

despite our efforts, however, they kept coming. they were relentless. we would strike the ants down and they'd seem to grow right back. like hydra. cut one down, two grow back in its place. except in this case it was more like three—or fourteen. 


hydra-ant
(with a nod to marvel's hydra image)

funkyunkymunky would be at the kitchen counter trying to encourage the new parade of terrorists/tourists to march outside instead of in...

oh when the hydra-ants...
go marching in...

and one of us would run in and trumpet out...

oh when the hydra-ants...
go...
march...
ching...
in...

and the battle would begin again...

oh the hordes!
i don't wan' be in the number...
when the hydra-ants...
go...
mar...
ching...
in!

the war raged on.

🐜  🐜  🐜

sometimes, we'd just be sitting. doing nothing. every-so-often attempting to mind our own business. not even
for that momentpondering the six-legged legion. and suddenly, whether there was an ant there or not, we felt itcrawling on us. we'd swear it had been there. but when we lookednothing. ghost ants. 

<insert mental picture of a ghost ant...
from your own brain>

we battled many ants together: hacker ants, ninja ants, terrorist ants, hydra-ants, even ghost ants. we were there for each other. day in, day out. night in, night out. and then, eventually, the varmints wore us down. we had other stuff to do. if nothing we did mattered, why should we try?

at long last we got to the place where someone would call out?

oh when the ants...

and no footsteps were heard...

go marching in...

no one would answer. no one appeared. no one rejoined with the familiar...

oh when the ants...
go...
mar...
ching...

no choir. no response. no, it's just you, stuck there on the "ching" with the @#%&#! ants. stuck there, and good blessed luck to ya, too.

we got to the place in our personal pandemic that seemed to mirror so eerily the one outside our doors. our big beautiful choir became, through exhaustion and winnowing of resources—human and emotional—just one small child, sitting alone with her piano, hoping against hope that someone comes along to help her. no one comes. 

🐜  🐜  🐜  🐜

and so it went, until one of us broke. i'm not naming names. (it was me.) 

the little girl, she lost her choir and then, eventually, i'm sorry to say, her piano... but she didn't lose her voice. and when you threaten to stop fixin' food because you will no longer fight a swarming bounty of blights on your home/palace—then you get some attention. 

i'm relieved to relate that a resolution was eventually discovered and rendered. we were able to engage on more advantageous battlefronts and beat back the micro-beasties to a now dwindling number. (all hail boric acid.) 

♩♫

resting on the couch the other evening in between pre-dinner tasks of chopping and simmering, i was gazing at our healthy accumulation of dust on the floorboards when i was suddenly startled by the dark contours of a creature moving along it. the elongated shadow thrown across the dark wood by the setting sun made its legs look large and its body huge—and ominous. i suddenly realized it was only an ant... but it was just as monstrous as any imaginary wild fang-tooth claw-bearing creature would've been in that instant. 

i started to sing our song...

oh when the ant...

but i didn't really expect an answer...

goes marching in...

...crickets.

well, at least it's not locusts.

🦗 🦗 🦗

NOTE: artwork graciously created and donated by DaYummyBurger.


just a reminder...

  little boys: not trash