Photo by: Debra Wimpfheimer


by Susan Feigenbaum
Photo by: Debra Wimpfheimer

This email was sent to the email account I created to collect memories for my 7-yr old daughter.

Dear Evie,

Tonight as I was saying goodnight to you and Lily, Lily asked me how bedbugs get into people’s homes. In an effort to calm this latest, and admittedly most legitimate, of her many bedtime fears, I told her that Uncle Dan’s friend Jeremy is an exterminator and he’s checked our home a few times and she can rest assured that we do not have bedbugs.. and if we did, he’d come right over and kill them.

I’d been leaning into Lily’s bottom bunk as I said this, and suddenly heard you scream “WHAT!?” from above. I looked up to see a look of horror on your face. “WHY WOULD HE KILL THEM? WHY WOULDN’T HE JUST COLLECT THEM AND PUT THEM BACK INTO NATURE? WHY DOES HE HAVE TO KILL THEM?” You were upset and very, very angry. You began sobbing, and asked repeatedly: “why do people always kill bugs for no reason?” You continued, tears streaming down your face: “They’re harmless. They’re the most harmless animals in nature. THEY ARE NOT EVEN PREDATORS!”

You suddenly paused, looked me dead in the eye, and exclaimed: “even you kill bugs!” You then passionately recounted an incident that took place on our vacation last summer to Long Beach Island. I refused to let you bring your jar of collected bugs and insects inside the house. That night there was a big rainstorm and in the morning we found your jar filled to the top with water and dead bugs. The holes in the jar were big enough to let rain in but too small to let the bugs out. Your look, your tone, and this tale said it all — I was a murderer. A mass-murderer at that.

To demonstrate how easy it would be to make a different choice, the right choice, you offered two alternative humane ways to deal with bedbugs. (A) Let them live on the mattress they infest, and the person goes to sleep in a different room, or (B) Take the mattress outside and make a path of napkins leading to the grass for them to follow to their new life. Lily chimed in at this point: “how would they know to follow the path?” Without missing a beat, you responded: “I’ll also cover the entire mattress with napkins so the ones who don’t take the path will crawl onto the napkins and I will carefully walk the napkins with the bedbugs over to the grass and then help each bedbug off the napkins and onto the grass.” I told you that I would share your ideas with Jeremy.

You became sadder and sadder about the plight of bugs and the injustice of people choosing to kill instead of help something so small and helpless and so much a part of nature. “They are animals just like us! Don’t people realize that?” I assured you that I was hearing you and that I would no longer kill bugs. Lily too earnestly pledged to no longer kill bugs. We were listening, and you were right. You responded hopelessly: “Thanks guys, but you’re just two people. And you’re my mom and sister. Everybody kills bugs and I can’t stop everyone, and I wish I could stop them ALL. NOW!”

Suddenly you stop crying. You informed us that you had your first plan. You will start to help bugs by researching a non-living alternative for spiders to catch in their webs and eat. I cautiously cautioned you (like any discredited former-mass-bug-murder would) that it is natural for spiders to kill bugs, insects, and flies, and it even serves a purpose, as do most things in nature. For example, if they no longer did this there would be an increase in certain bug/insect/fly populations which could ultimately negatively impact other bugs, insects, flies, animals, fruits, vegetables, etc. To which you responded without hesitation “Bees live in hives. I’ll find a place like that for the extra bugs and flies to live”. You went on to feverishly assert that no other scientist had ever thought of this idea so it’s really important that you become a scientist and do this research. Followed by, “Mom, you were right when you said I’d probably change my mind a lot of times about what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t want to be a singer anymore; I HAVE to become a scientist.”

For my part, I promised I’d help you find a way to get your message out to bug-killing humans that before they kill a bug they should stop and think how they would feel if they were a bug and instead just move it outside or away, and let it live. And I will. I’m starting with this email, cc’ing our family so they can take the pledge and join the fight. There may be a March too. But we’ll definitely be sure to look where we’re marching.

Tomorrow I suspect that you may announce that you are becoming a vegetarian. Luckily this will not be a difficult transition. Up until now you only eat meat on the third Tuesday of months with thirty-one days, or a February during a leap year, and every sixth Wednesday of the year, unless the sixth Wednesday is in the same week as the third Tuesday in which case it’s that Friday. And only if the first bite is taken when the minute hand is on an odd number, and between 12:11 pm and 12:27 pm, or 5:19 pm and 5:22 pm, and not when the outside temperature is under 39 degrees or over 72.5 degrees. You will have my full support.

I often refer to you as a “lovebug” because of how freely you give and express your love. Tonight, you perfectly demonstrated this most wonderful quality, and affirmed that there is no better way to describe you. You’ve also never reminded me more of myself than you did tonight. I remember at your age, and to this day, feeling the pain of injustice as viscerally as you did tonight. It’s not easy feeling that deeply, but you are so equipped and able and willing to turn that frustration into action which can be a gift not only to others but to yourself.

I’m so proud of you my lovebug, and I hope you keep loving all creatures deeply and standing up and showing up for what you believe in. I promise to try my very best to hear you, help you and support you.



Susan Feigenbaum is a Single Mother by Choice of 7.5 year old twins, Eve and Lily. They live in Queens, NY where Eve and Lily attend 2nd grade at their local public schools and Susan works as the Managing Director of a division of conference production company.

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