Last month, I went on a short trip with one of my maternal uncles and my dad (he’s my “step-dad”, but I generally only call him that for clarity when necessary). We went down to southern Utah, to Arches National Park, Canyonlands, all the way to Monument Valley at the northern tip of Arizona. It was a quick trip, and a full one.
We drove and walked through hundreds of miles of spell-binding geology. We traveled through some of the longest-standing and “busiest” culturally historical terrain in America. We climbed canyons and cliffs. We walked among crazy sandstone formations, centuries-old ruins, and mysterious petroglyphs.
Hopefully, someone will share with me some of their amazing digital photos soon, so I can show you some of the more impressive sights from the trip. I actually took a couple rolls of 35mm camera shots, myself, but have yet to get them processed…
So I couldn’t show you any of what we saw on the trip; but what I can show you, and am, today is something special I brought home for the girls. Of course, I had to bring stuff back for the girls… Each one got a special stone from my travels, a t-shirt, and some actual Mexican Jumping Beans!
Obviously, I didn’t get the beans in Mexico. They were imported Mexican Jumping Beans. I purchased them, first thing, when I arrived at the Salt Lake City airport, where I was meeting my dad and getting picked up by my uncle (who was driving us all-over Utah). Coincidentally, I just happened to walk up the concourse from my flight arrival at SLC (as we call it here), and saw my dad coming the other way, and he was coincidentally talking with a friend he knew from back home in Alabama. Where we bumped into one another was coincidentally right outside my favorite kid shop in the SLC airport (a major travel hub for us Montana folks). So I decided I would duck in and see if there was anything fun for the kids before I set off and spent all my souvenir money.
The airport shop has all the latest, coolest stuff for young kids, I’d say from toddler to about ten or so. We’ve gotten “Groovy Girl” stuff there, and stuffed-animal neck pillows, and other fun stuff we still have. On this particular day, though, I was not seeing anything that was absolutely fabulous, so I decided to go for some glow in the dark Sillybands (which I didn’t mention in the list above because I haven’t yet given those out). In the line to pay for the Sillybands, I saw the Mexican Jumping Beans.
I heard gospel hymns in my head. I saw an aura of golden light around the display. I had heard of MJBs before. They were mythical additions to some childhood cartoons I still vaguely remember as if images from a dream. And though I thought they were maybe made up, I had always been intrigued. I had perviously surmised that if they actually existed at all, they were probably coffee beans that had insects inside. I knew the girls would love them.
They sat four or five beans to a small plastic box, in a stacked arrangement of about 30 boxes. The clicked and rattled in the boxes, as the beans popped and rolled and bounced. In concert, they made quite a little ticking chorus. I bought two boxes, and grabbed the informational printout to bring as well.
The rather informative little information sheet informed me that the jumping beans come from a single area in Mexico, and that they are in fact, not coffee beans at all, but some sort of legume-type bean which come 3 to a pod. The jumping part is due to a moth larva who is laid as an egg in the mouth of the flower that becomes the pod, bores his/her way into the new, tender bean, and then slowly eats its way through to the next spring when it comes out as a moth. They go dormant in the cold, and they start “jumping” in the heat to keep from cooking inside their hard brown rental homes.
I stuffed the little plastic boxes in the bag the shopkeeper gave me, and zipped that into the side of the bag I was carrying. We went merrily on our way, and eventually got picked up from the airport by my uncle and headed south that evening. My uncle’s vehicle was loaded with stuff my dad and I had sent him to bring to us, as well as his own gear for the trip. I sat in the back, surrounded by stuff — in the seat beside me, as well as piled up in the hatch-back area behind me. One of the bags I’d brought with me was balanced on a big green Coleman stove in the back. And for several hours, either the bag or the stove was making a little rattle-squeak-ticking type of noise that I could not figure out.
As the miles went by, the noise kept giving me pause to wonder what the heck was going on. I tried my best to ignore it, but eventually, I was always reminded. That night we stayed at a hotel. I got the two air-travel bags I was using and brought them inside the room. When I set it down, I heard the stove-sound from the car again. Then I remembered — the beans…
They were in that bag I brought, flopping and clicking around in their little plastic boxes…
Through-out the course of the trip, the little Mexican Jumping Beans were a recurrent theme of humour. At one point, I thought maybe, I’d cooked them by leaving them too long in the car. And at another point, I thought I’d frozen them. And, regularly, their little click-clicking snuck up on us and had us wondering before we realized it was the beans, again.
So when I finally got home and distributed the gifts, the girls oohed and aahed over the shirts, the Navajo rattle I brought for the whole family, and the stones. And they actually were quite interested in the Mexican Jumping Beans, but I just couldn’t help feeling that they couldn’t possibly get out of them all that those little tickers meant to me…
Above and just below here, you can see Xi and Echo “racing” some beans. We put them in the middle of the paper (on the back of the informational printout), and the first bean to roll into one of the ovals on the outside of the ring, “wins”. The girls actually played it for a little while, but those beans don’t do much in the way of impressive jumping in chilly Montana.
Maybe if we put them under a heat lamp…?
Having kids: It’s fun for the whole family…