The first animal I learned about as an adolescent was the Aardvark. The aardvark was the first card in the encyclopedia deck I owned as a child. The aardvark is a nocturnal mammal with a long snout. It has rabbit ears, elongated pig’s nose, hovering kangaroo body, dark beanie eyes, wrinkled hairy skin, thick nails that could use a bit of polishing, and a thicker version of a possum’s tail. It’s sort of cute. Sort of sad-looking. Sort of hidden away trying to survive in Southern Africa, not South Africa. I’ve never met an aardvark before, but I would welcome the opportunity.
A is for Aardvark. That’s what I learned as a child.
What I taught my kindergarten students last year was “A is for apple.” Why am I not teaching them that A is for Aardvark? Why am I not describing this creature to them? I should be, even if they never see an aardvark in their lives. Aardvarks are important too. They deserve recognition.
A is for apple. Is it possible apples will be as hard to spot as aardvarks are one day? Or are apples on the hierarchy of needs for human survival? They are fiber. If you need to poop, they are ideal. An apple a day may keep the doctor away. I wouldn’t know. I don’t eat one apple per day. But I do make fruit shakes with apples. And I feel sort of healthy after drinking them. Apples are more relevant to my current lifestyle than aardvarks. But it is possible if I lived somewhere in Southern Africa and I had to share space with aardvarks, they would become not only important to my social welfare, they very well may be significant in other ways – nope, I’m not referring to them as becoming a food source.
Aardvarks eat termites. They move from one ant mountain to the next ant mountain. And they can eat a full meal of 60,000 termites per day. With those incredible thick claws it creates a tunnel for protection from its predator (i.e. lions and hyenas and other bigger carnivorous animals). Most interesting [to me] is that Aardvarks are loners. They aren’t social creatures like us humans. They aren’t looking for love in all the right and wrong places. Granted, they leave their home, socialize and get their groove on, when they are out and about. Mother aardvarks birth one child per year, but this happily-ever-after apple pie dream isn’t as popular with aardvarks as it is with humans.
We want companionship. Why is that? Aardvarks don’t, but we do. Maybe I shouldn’t be comparing us to aardvarks, but there’s something to be said about them hunting and gathering their food; birthing one child at a time; building a roof over their bodies; enjoying their own company. They don’t have Netflix to watch the latest thing; no cell phones to call their best friends down the way; courting seems to be out of the question, but somehow sex is prevalent, unless they liken themselves to the Virgin Mary.
And I believe they like their own company more than they might like the company of a whole host of aardvarks. I think they are comfortable in their bodies, probably more than we are as humans. We adorn ourselves for others. But aardvarks seem to say, “Look, this is me, rabbit ears, snout and all. I can’t help if you aren’t feeling me. But I’m feeling me.”
I get the impression they are into one-night stands. We look down on one-night stands and self-exploration (another way of saying masturbation). Well, some of us do. But I’m thinking the aardvark has a different view on this, but it’s not like they are publishing research on their sexual-social lives, not like we do. I wonder if there’s something we can learn from this mammal that begins the alphabet. I mean, after all, they are the first. They should get some credit. As teachers we should talk more about aardvarks and their existence.
The opening statement should be, “A is for Aardvark. The first alphabet teacher.”