I may still be considered a “young” mom (beginning to hear teenagers call me “ma’am”), but I’m old enough to remember a time before technology solved everything. In swampy Texas summers, all we had to keep mosquitos away was cancer spray or weak candles that smelled like a musty hospital.
One childhood encounter was particularly horrifying, a family camping trip to Inks Lake State Park. There we were, peacefully bobbing in the serene water. We had it all: pool noodles, floppy hats and neon-colored sunglass floaters, with sunscreen smeared on our noses.
And then came the sound. It started as a low hum, and we scanned the lake’s horizon to discover a foggy shadow shifting toward us. The hum swelled to a loud buzz, and the cloud resolved into its individual elements: a massive horde of mosquitos.
“Ruunn!” my mom screeched, as she lurched to shore, knees wheeling and arms flapping.
My sister and I stayed submerged as we paddled to shore like clandestine cartoon characters. The swarm enveloped us. My heart raced. I wondered if this was punishment for refusing to return my sister’s prized gel pens earlier in the day.
We reached the shore and bolted for the family SUV. As we hurtled into the back seat, we slammed the doors and watched helplessly as my dad fended off a brutal attack. My mom, her face the exact color of a ruby red gel pen, attempted a feeble rescue.
Then I felt a sting on my elbow. Then my knee. They’d breached the vehicle.
Through shrill screams, my sister and I walloped every surface of the vehicle with our flip-flops. Twenty minutes later and surrounded by the carcasses of 10,000 dead mosquitos, we were on the road. And that’s how the pale blue fabric ceiling of our family car became – and remained for years – a mosquito cemetery teeming with gray smudges.
Carrie Taylor is a freelance writer, editor and mother of two boys.