Eeeeeuuwww! It´s that time again, the one that comes every year in Spain but which you will never discover (lucky you) unless you are:
- (a) a parent
- (b) a teacher or, particularly unpleasantly
- (c) both.
Because it´s gusanos de seda time! Silk worm time!
Just imagine it, that fine, sensual oriental fabric on dewy, perfumed skin.
What could possibly be objectionable about that?
Nothing, of course, unless the silk worms are Made in Spain and emphatically not required to spin the miraculous fibres that become the kimono but are instead amassed wriggling in a plastic box in a primary school science lab as an example of the miracle of metamorphosis.
Again, fine. Biological metaphors for human transformation, especially in the case of awkward children (as in The Ugly Duckling) are necessary and welcome.
But why do I, and other parents, well-grown and successfully transformed into jaded cynics, need to keep these worms at home? Year after year after year?
To be honest, I lie. I only “did” the gusanos de seda thing a quite-sufficient-once. One spring, a seven-year-old Malassie brought home a box of these fat, proto-insects which could surely double as maguey cacti worms at the bottom of Mexican mezcal bottles in these times of economic crisis.
“You need to feed them,” she said, as we housed them in the trastero on the terraza next to the rusty tools, dried-up paint pots and that heavy pair of expensive curtains I keep saying I´m going to sell on Ebay.
“What do they eat?” I mused, planning to hit-and-run the Mascotería pet shop.
“And where do I get them? Not to mention what are they?”
“They´re leaves. You get them off the tree.”
“The morera tree.”
So, to the Collins Spanish-English I went. Our new, soon-to-cocoon pets ate only of the mulberry tree.
Whatever that was. I grew up in the urban blight of the East End Glasgow tenement. I wouldn´t know a mulberry tree if it fell on my corns, though I did sing the “here we go round the mulberry tree” playground rhyme as a wee lassie.
So, I endeavoured to find a mulberry tree. (Hey, I´ve a research degree, I pride myself on finding stuff!).
So, I put it about among my neighbours. “Psst”, I said, “I´m after a mulberry tree. Any chance?” And my wonderful neighbours, either still “tied to the earth,” as one of my students put it a long time ago, or having gone round the mulberry tree a number of times themselves, came up with the goods.
“Parque O´Donnell.” So off I went – to the bar in the park run by a couple of Romanians.
“Morera, sí, sí, da, da,” the young man behind the bar affirmed, running out the door and starting to climb onto the roof of the bar.
“What the ….,” I thought, but then a sweet rain of mulberry leaves landed softly on my head and I gathered them up and ran home, the sound of my voice lilting multumesc, gracias gratefully behind me.
And we fed them. The cocoons accumulated dirty, yellow candy-floss as the smell of rotting filth emanated from the box. Most of the worms died – a poignant lesson in life for Malassie – and eventually, when the stench of death was utterly vomit-provoking, a fey couple of moths struggled airborne to be wafted (by me) over the balcony railing.
I disposed of the stinking mess soon after and Malassie never spoke of silk worms again.
Until today. The American teacher brought in some gusanos de seda and will be feeding them the mulberry leaves from the bush/tree outside the classroom window.
I hope they´ve got air-freshener. Or tequila.
So, expat parents, get ready for entomology (the study of insects) to take precedence over etymology (the study of the origin of words) as the fun activity in the Spanish Spring. Your kids will bring all this ugliness home.
Don´t say you haven´t been warned!