Simply Living. Living Simply: Whirligigs or Pugnoses?

Whirligigs or Pugnoses?

By:  Helen Malloy

Some call them whirligigs, but in the Lithuanian neighborhood where I grew up, we called them pugnoses. Whatever you call them, they’re the maple tree seed pods seen twirling through the air each year at this time. When I was a kid, we used to split them open, exposing a stickiness that held them on our noses. So, there you go…pugnoses.

The twirling is a fertility dance of the maple tree, a rather unique evolutionary mechanism to spread more seeds and make more maples. But for me, it’s a trigger of childhood reverie and I am transported back to a time when giant maples dotted many Shenandoah streets—including mine. I am a child once again, sitting on the curb at the corner of Coal and White, under the shade of a magnificent maple and scuffing piles of pugnoses in the gutter with my feet.

The shade of that mighty maple was a great spot to sit and watch a parade go by—which we often did. We lived a block away from the old Cooper High School, so we were always on the parade route. I remember a whole week of parades for the Shenandoah Centennial celebration!

It was also a great spot for a kid to wait for Mister Softee to come around. It wasn’t often that I had money in my pocket, but when I did, I’d order my favorite—a shaggy dog cone—two eyes and a nose, ice cream swirls for ears with jimmies added for the shag. There was no better place on a hot summer day to catch the drippers of a shaggy dog than under the shade of that old maple.

Simply living. Living simply.
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