There are hundreds over here!” I cried.
smiled and ran over, pushing the red plastic wheelbarrow in front
of him. He sat down by the tree and gazed around the trunk. “Wow!
There must be a zillion of them!” he yelled.
just stand here and make sure they don’t get out, and I’ll
catch them!” I yelled to Alex. I thought it was my
duty to be bossy, since I was three years older than he was. I
was, of course, much more mature and able to handle all
situations. I sat on the hard ground and picked up the tiny
creatures. I pulled them out of the tufts of grass and weeds. I
stopped them as they climbed up the trunk of the tree. One
at a time, I caught them and placed them gently in the plastic
Alex sat on the ground. His face
hovered over the tiny creatures, and he watched as they crawled
up the sides. Occasionally, he yelled at them, telling them
to stay in the wheelbarrow. After a while, Alex began whining
about how boring his job was, so we switched places. I may
have been older, but the “ladybug tree” was in Alex’s
backyard, so the power had to be evenly distributed.
by the wheelbarrow and hung my head over the ladybugs. After
watching the ladybugs for about twenty minutes, the muscles in
the back of my neck became sore. I just continued to slide
the ladybugs down the sides of the wheelbarrow and back to the
bottom. The ladybugs didn’t seem to mind crawling around in
the toy; they rarely flew away.
After a couple of hours,
the entire bottom of the wheelbarrow was covered. Alex and I
decided that we had gathered a sufficient number of ladybugs for
the day. We played with the bugs for a while, letting them
crawl up our arms and watching with sad or sometimes angry eyes
as a few flew away. We had big plans for the ladybugs. For
our enterprising minds, just letting them crawl up our arms and
stand on our fingertips was not enough.
I had once heard
that ladybugs were helpful in gardens because they kept away
other insects that were more destructive. Alex and I also
found the ladybugs to be extremely cute. For the
aforementioned reasons, we of course thought that people would
want to buy the ladybugs. So, we agreed to sell them. This was
not the first, nor was it the last in our series of childhood
enterprises. We tried to sell everything, including the
snacks that Alex’s mother, my babysitter, gave us. It
was not the thought of earning money that intrigued us; it was
the idea of success and achievement. We were sure that,
unlike our other ideas, our ladybug sale would be
“Come in for lunch!” Alex’s
mother, Sharon, screamed.
We told our ladybugs not to
escape and went inside. We were the oldest children Sharon
watched, so we had our “grown-up” business
conversation over lunch. We talked about how we would sell the
ladybugs that day. We decided it was time to choose a name
for our business. We wanted something original, creative,
and catchy. To our young minds, “Ladybugs ‘R’
Us” seemed to fit the criteria. Even though we had
not sold a single ladybug, the addition of this “original”
name really helped the business take off in our minds.
we ate lunch, we ran through the back door into the fresh air.
We took the wheelbarrow and pushed it around to the front
of the house, then to the end of the driveway. Filled with
pride in our new name, we were sure to sell a ladybug or
“Ladybugs for sale; only ten cents each!”
Alex and I both screamed at the passing cars.
little boy with blonde hair came down the street on his bike. I
knew who he was, but Alex knew him better than I did. He
always seemed kind of loud and obnoxious to me. I hoped
that if the boy didn’t buy a ladybug, he would at least not
see us, and just keep walking toward the playground. Remaining
unseen was impossible, though; Alex’s house was directly
across the street from the playground.
The blonde boy yelled, “Whatcha doin’?”
“We’re selling ladybugs,” I
“Why would you wanna do that?” the
boy wrinkled his nose as he asked us.
fun!” Alex yelled back.
“It sounds pretty
stupid. Let me try it,” he said as he marched toward
The little brat butted right in to
“help” us, as did many of the neighborhood friends
that came and visited us while we sold the ladybugs. Luckily,
like the other kids, he soon got bored.
stupid! I’m goin’ to the playground. Let me
take a ladybug for free since I helped you guys,” the
little boy said.
“O.k., here’s a really big
one,” Alex said as he handed a ladybug to the blonde kid.
I didn’t think that letting him take one made good
business sense, but I decided I would rather have the little brat
leave than argue with him.
After he left, Alex and I
continued trying to sell the ladybugs. It was starting to
rain, so we let all of the ladybugs out of the wheelbarrow and
put them under the tree. Then we went inside. We couldn’t
leave the bugs in the wheelbarrow; we had to start each morning
by catching them.
We decided to draw for a while, our legs
were tired and we just wanted to sit down. Alex and I both
enjoyed drawing, almost as much as selling things. We got
out a big box of markers. We drew all kinds of pictures, some of
ladybugs. While we created our artwork, we discussed the
future of our business.
“Maybe we should yell
louder,” Alex suggested. We decided we would.
you trying to sell those things again?” Alex’s mother
asked us from the living room. We told her that we were,
and described how successful we thought our business would be.
She just laughed and said “o.k….” She
never seemed very enthusiastic about her son’s ambition,
but she was glad when we went outside. She was left alone to
watch her soap opera, or her “story” as she liked to
I came home that evening and told my parents the
same things Alex and I had told Sharon. My parents
certainly laughed to themselves, but they encouraged my
enthusiasm and ambition. They were proud of my creativity
and did not want to stifle it.
I returned to Alex’s
house the next day. We watched TV in the morning until
Sharon yelled “why don’t you go outside and get the
stink blown off ‘ya?” I never thought Alex or I
smelled bad, and I thought it was a rather rude expression, but
we still went outside eagerly.
That day, I pushed the
wheelbarrow to the tree and Alex began to capture the creatures.
Again, we filled the bottom of the red wheelbarrow with
ladybugs, and again we pushed it to the end of the driveway.
Today we yelled louder, but it got us sore throats, not
extra dimes in our pockets. We took a break to swim and eat
lunch, and then we headed back to the end of the driveway.
about ten minutes, I realized that Alex wasn’t as much of
an optimist as I thought. It suddenly was clear that Alex
had inherited some of his mother’s pessimism. Before, we’d
always just continued down our road to success as Sharon watched
her soaps, but today was different.
“This is dumb!”
Alex suddenly exclaimed.
“No it’s not!”
I screamed back. How could he possibly think this was dumb?
After we had worked so hard?
“No one wants to buy
any stupid ladybugs!”
“Yes they do, if they
only knew how nice the ladybugs were, people would buy them,”
I knew people would buy the ladybugs. I knew
that if the “ladybug tree” wasn’t in Alex’s
own backyard, he would be enticed to spend a dime on one of the
lovely little, polka-dotted creatures. Alex took the
“Stop!” I yelled, “I still
want to sell them!”
“Too bad, they’re
mine! This is my driveway, and my wheelbarrow, and my tree!
I don’t want to sell the ladybugs anymore!”
Alex yelled, his face was red, and he had tears running down his
“Stop being such a baby,” I told him.
“If we want to sell any, we need to keep trying.”
I was suddenly reminded that he was only about six and much more
childish than I was.
Alex was upset, and he blamed me. He
may have discovered the ladybug tree, but I had envisioned
“Ladybugs ‘R’ Us,” so he thought it was
my fault. I guess he forgot that we both had caught the
ladybugs, we both had screamed at passersby, and we both had
thought of names and business ideas. We had both invested
much of our summer into Ladybugs ‘R’ Us. I
thought it was too early to give up on our investment, but Alex
was ready to sell.
Alex turned with tears in his eyes,
and ran, pushing the wheelbarrow ahead of him. I thought
for a moment. Then, once he’d had a few moments to
calm down, I decided to walk to the backyard and try to talk some
sense back into him.
When I got to the backyard, I saw
that Alex had not calmed down; he was in a fit of rage. He
was holding onto the garden hose and spraying the poor little
“Stop! You’re hurting them!”
“Good. I hate ladybugs!”
they’ll drown!” Now we were both crying. I
could not believe how cruel he was or how enraged a six-year-old
could be. Alex wasn’t just killing the ladybugs; he
was killing all of our hopes and dreams from that summer. I felt
like I was drowning, not just the ladybugs.
I went home
and felt depressed. I tried to read, then I tried to watch
television, but I kept thinking about “Ladybugs ‘R’
Us”. I decided that I would try to get Alex
interested in the enterprise again. I was determined.
next day, when I went to Alex’s house, he wasn’t
angry with me anymore. But, it still seemed too soon to
bring up the ladybugs, so we played other games. After a
few days, we were catching ladybugs again. I am not sure
exactly how or why we re-started our business, except that,
without this task, both of us felt like a part of our summer was
Every day for the rest of the summer we continued
to try to sell ladybugs. We made signs and we collected old
cardboard jewelry boxes to place the ladybugs in once they were
sold. We only sold about five ladybugs all summer, a few to
our parents and the parents of other children at the daycare, and
a few to neighborhood children.
Our business closed down
once school resumed and the leaves began to turn. The
reward for our perseverance was not pockets full of dimes, or the
feeling of being the coolest kids in town; it was our memories.
Our time by the tree and at the end of Alex’s
driveway was not wasted. Money would have been quickly lost
to candy and toys, but I was sure that the lesson of perseverance
and creativity would last for a long time. This was
confirmed the following summer, when Alex found a baby tree
growing in the yard and yelled, “Beth! Come here
quick! Maybe we can sell these!”