I couldn’t wait for Daddy to get home from work each day. I was all set to beg him to take me outside for my favorite three-year-old activity. No doubt, Mother tried to put me off at least long enough for her hello kiss or for him to change clothes and sit down for a few minutes’ rest.
But I must have prevailed more often than not because my fond memories include Daddy still in his gray dress pants, long-sleeved white shirt, and wide, maroon-flowered tie crouching with me underneath our house—our white, wood-frame house that sat about three feet off the ground atop brick pillars—tormenting strange-looking insects while we swirled skinny sticks in their narrow, cone-shaped holes chanting in unison, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out of your hole; your house is on fire and your children will burn.” If our taunts worked, we’d find a doodlebug attached to the stick when we pulled it out.
Doodlebugs are actually bristly, grayish-brown, larval-stage antlions who prey on ants. In the sandy soil of the eastern South Carolina home of my childhood, they caught their quarry by digging shallow pits in the soil where they’d lie in wait for an unsuspecting ant to drop in—literally—for a tasty meal.
The doodlebug moniker apparently derives from the curlicue trails antlions “draw” in the sand (much like the meaningless doodles Daddy typically made with his pencil and scratch pad when he was on the telephone) as they search for the perfect spot to dig their traps.
Of course, I didn’t know any of this way back when. All I knew was that I making a little magic with the man in my life, and I was enchanted.