IT seemed to just appear one day this summer–an encompassing sound that filled the heavy, humid summer air with a dull, pulsating din that was as much of a physical presence as the trees the noise was coming from.
One might argue that a noise cannot “appear,” but then I would counter by asking them if they have ever heard the relentless song of cicadas in the summertime. And did they know that cicadas emote the loudest noise of any insect? Given that our backyard quite literally IS a tropical jungle, and I just attest any strange noises to whatever is living in there, I didn’t make the connection at first that the noise was cicadas singing–announcing that summer is here.
Iwa ni shimiiru
Semi no koe
Matsuo Basho was a famous Japanese poet (1644-1694) who was very influential in the evolution of the more ancient poetry hokku to modern haiku. He wrote the above poem “Silence,” which could be translated as:
Permeating the rocks
Voices of cicadas
grosse Stille –
das Schrillen der Zikaden
dringt in die Felsen
The cicada has a celebrated history in Japan beyond this ancient poem. Today, Japanese school children make a big deal out of the Semi, and enjoy collecting and capturing them to look at in little cages. I also like the phrase that the Japanese have to describe the noise, which is “semi-shigure”, which means “shower of cicadas.”
Listen to cicada songs here:
The first time I saw a cicada, I didn’t even know what it was. Leif and Fiona alerted me to the large insect hanging onto our screen door. I took a picture of it, having not really seen anything like it before. It wasn’t until later, after I heard the Japanese children talking about “Semi,” that I learned more about cicadas, (Semi in Japanese) and made the connection that the noise is their mating cry.
Once I realized this, I couldn’t believe that we were going to be hearing this cacophony ALL summer!! Although it is quite fascinating when you learn more about it–how only the males make the sound, how they make it, and how they are trying to be louder than the next guy so as to win the girl– IT Was Very Loud. Luckily, sensory adaptation seemed to kick in and I didn’t notice it as much after a while.
The cicadas are seen as a symbol of summer, and I agree. On May 31, my family had a really lovely evening together and everything felt as though we were participating in summer’s joyful inauguration. We walked along the seawall: exploring, happy, content. We ate at an Indian restaurant that has Naan bread almost as big as Leif. Afterwards, as the sun was setting over the ocean, we all got frozen yogurt.
Walking down the steps from the yogurt place, looking at my family before me, out at the lights of the city and the dark expanse of the ocean beyond, I felt happy and in love with summer. I knew I hadn’t blogged since Leif’s birthday, and in typical fashion hadn’t even finished up that series, and planned to start off the summer with a blog post with these pictures from that effervescent evening.
Then everything became incredibly sad. I heard news from my uncle in North Carolina about a tragedy- a unthinkable, horrifying tragedy that I could hardly believe had happened to my family.
My cousin Adam lost his two year old sons in a house fire which occurred on July 13th. They were five and three years old. Adam was not present, as the children were that day under the care of their mother (Adam’s ex-wife) who was in the house with her boyfriend. The adults, who were in a different room than the little boys, survived.
This is not my story to tell, or even my grief to endure, although it makes my heart hurt to think of it. I feel very close to my relatives in North Carolina, although we have only been able to visit here and there over the years. While we were living in Virginia, however, I was often there with my grandmother, and saw the boys on many occasions.
I felt a strong connection to those boys, not because I knew them well individually, but mostly because they represent the new generation of my Trogdon grandparent’s progeny, of which my children are a part. All the cousins have been having children around the same time and it has been fun to link up with them when I am in town. Adam, his twin brother Alan, and his older sister Andrea all have children close to the same ages as mine. Andrea’s two youngest were born in the same years as Fiona and Leif, and we have enjoyed getting them all together when I am in town. I remember walking in the fields with Steffan, Adam and his then wife- when she was pregnant with one of the little boys. It was fun to think about all the little cousins playing together each time I visited.
Logan and Andrew’s Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that I made for all of the “new generation cousins” are in a box in Fiona’s closet right now, waiting for me to finish them. It’s a project I have to complete, but have been reluctant to get it out because that makes me sad too- I had thought that I would finish them up together with Grandma Trogdon on my last visit to her before moving to Japan. Of course that last visit ended up differently than I had anticipated, since I had to collect all those dolls, pack them up and resolve to finish them on my own.
So this was a tragedy which still felt close to home, although I am still far removed from it. But I don’t put this on here to dwell on the tragedy or engender sympathy for me from those who read this. That belongs to those left in North Carolina who feel this loss much more keenly and face it daily.
But as far as this blog was concerned, I couldn’t bring myself to post those pictures of our happy family when I knew how deeply those in NC were suffering. Not because they would mind–they had and have more important things on their mind–and even if they did notice, I know it wouldn’t have bothered them, and in fact they probably would have enjoyed seeing pictures of my children–it was just not something I felt like doing.
I talked a little with my family in NC and followed the story on the news. I thought a lot about the simplicity and sincerity of Adam’s words when he was interviewed on the news. The sentiment wasn’t anything new or astounding- but it carried the truth and depth of feeling of a father who has lost all that had made him a father, and who has endured every parent’s worst fear. That loss and grief gave gravity and power to what he said, even though he said himself that he was at a loss for words. I was amazed at the composure he showed when being interviewed. The quotes that stuck out to me, and what I have reflected upon over the past few months are the following:
“Always tell your children you love them.”
No matter how hard your life is and how difficult work can be….you never know when they’re going to be took away from you….”
He also talked about how love is much more important love is than all the material things in life, and about all the plans he had for his children- growing up, teenage years- all of that which was taken away so suddenly and tragically.
So what I am trying to express now here, is how my cousin’s loss affected me- what I want it to mean for me. I feel like with any tragedy, in order to process it or move forward in a positive way, I have to try and figure out how it can bring meaning to my life- how I can respect that memory of that person by trying to improve or do something differently, and in even the tiniest way, attempt to make their loss count for something.
With my mother, I honor her by remembering the talents she encouraged in me, and I try and feel close to her by continuing the things that she taught me, such as cooking, sewing, childhood education, etc. With my grandmother, during her funeral, I learned so much about the strength that she had and how hard she worked. How much she did for others and how she made each of us feel special. Her funeral inspired me to change and to want to be a better person – to carry on that legacy. I can say the same about Layne- wanting to honor him by being a better person. I can’t say that I have succeeded in this, or even made much of a difference in myself in the last 2 years–but it is a life-long process of steps forward and moments where I forget and move backwards.
So in thinking about those two little boys, the goal is about being a better mother. So I decided to live the summer and not worry about documenting it so much. Which I did, happily. I wasn’t a perfect mom–I know I still got angry, yelled, lost my patience, was selfish with my time and also discovered instagram. However, I would want Adam to know that on many many many days – almost every day- I remembered Andrew and Logan during both good and bad moments with my children.
If there was a time they asked me to do something and I was busy- in many (not all!) occasions where I would have put them off or ignored them, I thought of NC and stopped and just was with them. Living in the moment, doing whatever they wanted to do. I planned lots of fun outings for all of us during the days & tried just to enjoy the time with them without thinking about all the other things I needed to get done. There were lots more lego car parks, watercolors, car trips and messy kitchens.
During those good times, those quiet and peaceful snuggly times, during the loud funny dance party times, I remembered what Adam has lost and felt deeply grateful that I can continue holding my children, watching them grow out of shoe sizes and learn new words. Adam said that Logan loves twinkle twinkle at night time. That is also Leif’s favorite song and when I put him down for a nap and when Rijen puts him down at bedtime, Leif loves for us to stroke his face and sing him Twinkle Twinkle. I try not to take that for granted.
I want to add my faith to Adam’s that he will be able to see his little ones again, and in the meantime they are taking care of each other and hopefully Grandma and Grandpa Trogdon are looking after them and so is my mom. It helps to picture that. There isn’t really anything though I can do to make a difference in Adam’s life or help him get through his tragedy. I hope he feels that we (Carolyn’s family) love him, are here for him (will always be) and continue to be so saddened by the loss of our little cousins. I can make a difference though in how I manage my time with my children and my attitude towards them. That’s what I’ll be working on as long as I can.
The cicadas have a lifespan of either 13 or 17 years. However, 99% of their lives are spent underground, and only a few weeks do they emerge to live, mate, fly from tree to tree and sing. For this reason, cicadas are also symbolic of renewed life and immortality. The cicada who landed on our screen door died probably that day, or maybe he was already dead when we found him. The body stayed there for days and days, while his brothers and sisters continued to sing on, eventually depositing their little brown bodies on the grass and sidewalks, continuing their life cycle over and over until one day…..the noise was gone.
At one point a cicada swooped right past my ear, singing loudly as he whooshed up to land on the tree. It felt….like it was happy. I couldn’t help but think about the exuberance of a little child- unfettered by all the responsibilities of adulthood. I thought about the clearest memories I have of little Andrew and Logan. Their little bodies running in and out of Grandma’s kitchen. I would be sitting with her talking in the front room area, and they would rush in and tell Great Grandma “Hey.” Grandma would go tell them to get a treat out of the treat box (small cooler). They would run get them, and then rush back out, eager to be outside to play with each other, or to do something with their grandpa, Gary. I never got a picture of them like the other cousins because they never seemed to be sitting still. What I have of them now are the memories.
Their little voices are gone, but they won’t be forgotten, and hopefully new ones will come, not to take their place but to continue on. Some happy things have happened in North Carolina since that tragedy. Adam married his girlfriend, Autumn and she is pregnant with a new little Trogdon cousin. I am so happy for them and I know that their baby will hear lots of stories about the two older brothers. Life goes on. We forget, and we remember. We make mistakes, and we try and make up for it. We love each other anyway.
Its been two months to the date, since i lost my two babies, i miss them everyday the nights are still difficult. As the months to come, i look forward to bringing in a new child in our life. A baby boy or girl (brother or sister) for Andrew and Logan. Boys we miss you so much and we love you so much. The memories of my sons and strength of my wife is the reason why i will not give up. Thank you.
September 13 2013
And now?—we have long said goodbye to summer and are finally enjoying some refreshing fall weather here in Okinawa. I hope (HOPE) that I can get back to posting some more in order to share a little bit more of what we have been up to this year. It’s been a good one so far, and we have some exciting things ahead of us before it’s done.
Video Interviews with Adam: