Friends visited for the last time today. They’re leaving Elizabethtown, you know. And as we said our goodbyes, the male cicadas started their mating song, filling the air like a final symphony. For what or for whom? Who can tell?
You see, young cicadas called nymphs live underground for 13 to 17 years, shedding their skin several times until they mature and prepare to see the world. They make themselves felt through their notorious shrill song, scaring the birds away to save themselves. To enjoy their last few weeks on earth.
It made me think what amazing creatures these cicadas are, just like you and me. 17 years ago, I heard them sing each night as I worked on my lesson plans in a refugee camp. Perhaps singing for immigrants who were preparing for a new life? (What about you, my friend?) 17 years earlier I heard them sing when mom visited my sister and me in the Visayas, away from the political strife in Manila during the martial law that was. Perhaps singing for our joyous reunion? (What about you, my friend?)
Now the cicadas are mating, laying eggs in twigs, and dying soon. Their nymphs will fall on the ground and hide in burrows 6 to 18 inches deep 'til it’s their time to sing like a symphony. For what or for whom? Who can tell? As for me, I’ve sung for countless children, crossed the raging seas, shivered in long lonely winters, built nothing… Laughed and cried? It doesn’t matter, I guess. Most friends have sung for others, grown roots for their loyalty, savored the glorious sun, built palatial homes, leisurely seen the world… Laughed and cried? It doesn’t matter, I guess.
17 years later, it shouldn’t matter if I can’t hear another symphony. It shouldn’t matter if I can’t sing for children, my house kept bare, my pocketbook empty… For 17 years later, my K kids now should mature and prepare to see the world, too. And the next generation of cicadas will sing for them, I’m sure.
17 years later, it shouldn’t matter if I can’t hear another symphony because three generations of amazing cicadas have sung beautifully for you and me. With our lives intricately woven. And we’ve come and gone. Laughed and cried… Should we change any of that?