I found a praying mantis and made him our new family pet. Then I accidentally killed him. So, I did the only logical thing I could think of after that. I created a crime scene, an intricate alibi, and told my two sons he escaped.
Then I sat down and wrote this letter so they know the truth when they’re ready… Or, more likely, to give them something to share with their therapists in 20 years.
Do you remember that praying mantis we had for a couple months when you were five and two? Remember when I told you he opened the door to his cage and flew away? Well, the truth is: he died. The more honest version is: I killed him.
He hadn’t been eating for a couple of days and his right eye was getting wonky. Things weren’t looking good for him, so we put him outside for some fresh air on one of the hottest days of the summer. He didn’t make it. I walked you out there to bring him inside and pretended shock when he wasn’t in the cage. We called him. We peaked around the yard. I told you he must have migrated or flew away to visit his family. He had – after all – just developed his wings. We left the cage outside with the door open in case he wanted to come back, but he was actually in a shoe box in the basement.
The wings are what made me start to feel bad about keeping him. They had just developed a couple of days before he died. Before that he was just an insect living in a cage protected from the birds that surely would have eaten him if I had not found him on the door of the new house we were renovating. It was a dark week for that house with bad news around every corner – and behind every wall. And then I found this big, green praying mantis sitting on the front door. I shrieked, found a tall lawn bag, ushered him inside, and sped to your grandparents house to show you. We kept him in a mayo jar for the first week as we decided how permanent of a house guest he would become. You named him Pray.
I came home from work one day and your grandmother had purchased a large cage, moss, and crickets. It was official: we had a new pet. A new, very fragile pet. I spent lots of time on search engines learning about Pray and all the wacky people who like to chat about having a praying mantis for a pet. And then I became one of those crazy people when I found myself at THREE different pet stores at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night looking for live crickets. You were sleeping, of course.
Do you remember when he molted? I was convinced he was dying, so sat up watching him and googling his every move until I figured it out. And then I went upstairs and woke you up in the middle of the night… just so you could witness this miracle of him shedding his skin. You thought it was cool for a minute and then asked to go back to bed. That’s when your dad had to level with me that I may have been more into Pray than you were.
For the first two days you went outside and called him. As I write this, the cage is still sitting open outside waiting for the praying mantis that won’t return. I’ll give the cage a few more days before we clean it out and pack it away waiting for the next inhabitant.