67: Itsy Bitsy Spider

67: Itsy Bitsy Spider

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Itsy Bitsy Spider

We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.

~Bill Vaughan

One good thing about being disorganized is that one is always making exciting discoveries. Our little log home is full of odd storage spaces so during my occasional housecleaning excavations, I can come across some real treasures from my past. One day, I had such an encounter, with a plastic tub of vacation clothes from the era when the kids were small and we went on Disney vacations. My daughter’s little Princess Jasmine swimsuit emerged from the box along with one of my husband’s flowered Big Dog shirts.

Unfortunately, these odd storage spaces and charming nooks and crannies make wonderful homes for squatters too, as I discovered when I was clasping my daughter’s Princess Jasmine swimsuit to my bosom in a fit of nostalgia and saw something fuzzy moving in the bottom of the tub.

If you’ve spent any time in the woods, you learn that spiders live there too. Fundamentally, I don’t have a problem with that, because technically we are invading their space. I’m proud to report that a kinder, gentler me has evolved over the past few decades. There was a time that I would have thought nothing of dropping an encyclopedia on the hairy little creepy crawlies with the intention of breaking all eight of their legs. In truth, I always took that coward’s way out because I could never squash them with my foot. I thought a plummeting encyclopedia seemed forgivable, something more like an accident.

By the time my babies came along, my intellectual self had come to accept what beneficial neighbors spiders really are. I’ve even read that they are excellent indicators of the absence of radon. Got spiders? No radon! Between that left brain data and my right brain’s endless viewings of Charlotte’s Web, by 1989 I could no longer squash them at all. At that point, my weapon of choice became a vacuum cleaner with a very long extension tube.

Fast forward twenty-two years. I was in my flip-flops, rummaging alone in the bedroom when I found myself out-gunned four-to-one by a wood spider and with no vacuum cleaner in sight. For those of you who don’t know, a wood spider is not the itsy, bitsy spider of fairytale fame. A wood spider is a spider on steroids, a large brown obviously crunchy thing — absolutely terrifying.

I did the only rational thing; I backed away quietly, being careful not to make contact with any of its four pairs of eyes, and closed the door, a symbolic gesture only. An hour later, when my son arrived, I put on my snowboots and welder’s gloves. He armed himself with a paper plate and the glass dome to my cheese tray. He and I have honed our teamwork skills over the years and we’ve wrangled our fair share of renegade chickens and the occasional errant black snake. A wood spider is simply no match for the two of us.

We knew the plan. I held the flashlight while he goosed the spider from the back so it scooted onto the paper plate held strategically against the side of the tub. The cheese dome came down on top and presto! We had spider under glass. The tricky part is always keeping a tight seal between the plate and lid, and I wisely left that up to my younger, nimbler offspring.

My husband has always said that fear is simply a lack of knowledge, so in an effort to give my fearlessness a booster shot, the three of us — my son, the spider and I — sat down at the kitchen island and chatted a bit with a layer of protective glass between us. When we had exhausted all conversation that could have been of any possible interest to a spider, my son secured the bottom of the plate against the glass once again and escorted the spider to the far side of the driveway and set him free.

By evening, the spider was on the outside of the back porch. By morning he was on the inside of the torn porch screen. By the next evening, he was peering in the bathroom window. I know it was the same spider; we had a moment of connection as I saw a look of gratitude in his eyes, all eight of them. In that special moment that only manifests when Homo sapiens and an arachnid have truly found their truth, it occurred to me that he had been living the good life in my closet before I had invaded his privacy. He was simply on a mission to get home and I felt a tiny pang of regret as I watched him entreat me with his outstretched little arms — or first pair of legs, whichever.

Our minds melded and we sealed an unspoken pact. It was our own “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He promised not to show himself again and I promised not to go looking. And so we agreed we could share the space and both call the same location home sweet home. But that doesn’t mean my vacuum won’t be locked and loaded, just in case.

~Mitchell Kyd

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