It is this peculiar stitching motion of the dragonfly's abdomen that earned it the name "darning needle"--parents used to threaten their children by saying that, if the children told lies, dragonflies would hover over their faces as they slept and sew their lips together. Interestingly, I read that only the great speed at which the egg-laying female dragonfly flies over the water prevents her from being "caught by the surface tension and pulled down." And at that same great speed the dragonfly I saw that day whirred away, downstream: a drone, a dot, and then gone.
A terrifying little story to tell kids. An insect hovering over a naughty child's mouth, stitching lips together as punishment for a white lie, fib, whopper, tattle, deception, fabrication. That's almost as good as the story I read as a child in a book about Purgatory. In that book, sinners guilty of telling a lie were forced to swallow mouthfuls of molten lead as penance. Combining the two punishments (taking in a mouthful of liquid lead and then having your lips stitched closed) would probably have kept me awake for weeks as a kid. (By the way, you don't really want to know what they do to chronic masturbators in Purgatory, but it was enough to keep me away from the Penthouse under my brother's mattress for a couple months.)
Punishment is a strange thing. I have learned, in my years as a father, to choose my punishments wisely. Grounding, for example, is a terrible form of punishment. It forces parents to spend entire nights/weeks with surly adolescents/teenagers. The punishers become the punished. Frankly, I think I'd take molten lead over spending extended periods of time with my sullky, fifteen-year-old daughter.
My wife and I have been having a battle with our daughter these past couple weeks. This summer, my daughter has been invited to spend the month of July in the state of Washington with my sister, her husband, and kids. My sister made the invitation without first consulting with my wife or myself first. For various reasons that I will not discuss here, we have told our daughter that she is not going to Washington this summer. Of course, she accepted our decision with grace and maturity. She said, "I understand, father and mother, and I bow to your collective parental wisdom." NOT.
According to my daughter, we are "ruining her life," and she "is going to be absolutely miserable all summer." These pronouncements have been accompanied by tears and shouting. I believe a few doors were slammed, as well. (Where's a dragonfly when I need one?) Tonight, she has lapsed into quiet recalcitrance.
Certainly, my daughter is determined to make herself miserable this summer. And, because we share a house with her and are the cause of her misery, my wife and I will, by association, be miserable as well. That's our punishment for being responsible parents.
Saint Marty is planning on sleeping with one eye open tonight.