One summer day when I was a toddler, after my baby sister Lisa was put down for a nap and Mom fell asleep, I made my move. With only a soggy diaper on covered by plastic pants, I cleverly made my way over the side of my playpen, out the back door of our brick home, down a grassy embankment in the front of the house, and onto a busy road known as Route 29 in Collegeville, PA. Maybe in my baby way I was figuring I could hitch a ride to explore parts unknown.
Luckily a kind driver who found it odd to see a pudgy baby girl walking down the double yellow center line of Route 29 stopped, picked me up, and returned me to my mother, safely. I can still imagine my baby bare feet taking one small step at a time on that road, not realizing the danger.
Prior to this adventure I was saved from another near death experience while visiting my grandparent’s home. I had learned to crawl and was doing just that, scampering quickly on my baby knees across the kitchen floor while all the adults were busy chatting and not paying attention to me. The door to the basement was slightly ajar and I was determined to explore what lay behind it. Grandpop caught my right foot just before I was about to plunge down the steep flight of steps to the concrete floor below.
Even within the confines of my home I sought adventure. One morning, before anyone else was awake, I pulled myself up onto the toilet lid, and from there, crawled onto the sink, where I was able to open the medicine cabinet to retrieve my Daddy’s sharp razor, hoping to imitate on my own face what I had seen him do many times. Luckily, Mom found me before I injured myself seriously.
A necessary trip to the hospital with pneumonia at three years of age didn’t quench my need for adventure either, especially when it involved a desire to escape. To keep me safe and sound while I was in my hospital room alone for a short period of time while my folks needed to be elsewhere, the nurses had placed a netted cover over my crib which was tied to the corners and sides.
Being sick didn’t stop me from untying the cover with my fingers. Soon I was over the side of the crib, walking out the door of my room to the hallway, where a nurse found me. She gently took my hand, led me back to the room, and asked me where I was going. My response was simply, “I want to go home.”
My parents definitely had their hands full.
But my favorite childhood adventure story involved a spider. Which brings me to a more recent personal tale about spiders- five of them, actually.
Last weekend we were preparing for my son-in-law John’s thirtieth birthday party, which happened to be a Zombie themed party. Even knowing that Zombies like things dirty, I decided to do some much needed cleaning to prepare for our guests.
I have a small porch area outside my front door. Just a few days before, while switching off the outside light, a black shape and its darting movement there caught my eye. I assumed it was a spider, and stopped to watch a moment longer as it retreated to its corner. It was big, black, and yukky, but not being afraid of spiders I left it alone, figuring it was doing a service to me- eating bugs like flies and mosquitos who were much more of a nuisance.
Which brings me to my favorite childhood story. I was outside with my Mom and sister, exploring the back yard like most toddlers do- by picking things up and putting them in my mouth. As always I was quick and sly about it, turning away from my mother just enough to prevent her from seeing what I was doing. She had no idea I had put something into my mouth until she noticed I was chewing.
My Mom hates bugs. I will always remember the time she went into hysterics and quickly stripped off her dress in front of us because a thousand-legger was on her.
Once Mom tried to examine what I was chewing on, I became determined to keep her from seeing, clamping my jaws shut tightly to prevent her from extracting my treasure. The look of surprise and fear on her face was priceless when she managed to pry my mouth open to investigate, realizing what her daughter actually had in her mouth.
A Daddy long-legged spider.
Being a good Mom, and facing her fear, she removed that spider from my mouth.
Maybe that is why I’ve felt no fear of spiders, though having them crawl on me would make me equally as hysterical as my Mom. And putting one in my mouth lost its appeal after that first experience.
The spider under my porch was one of five large ones, all with webs, all hovering over the front door. My son Josiah informed me they needed to go, that “they were creeping him out.” My daughter Rebekah told me that when her boyfriend Kevin left at night he could feel the webs and it spooked him. I knew they needed to go, especially with guests coming for the party. I suspected even Zombies might get freaked out if they found a big black spider dropping on them when they entered my home for the party.
I told Josiah to go get the can of Raid in the garage. But I wasn’t feeling good about it.
I went out to observe further the spiders handiwork, marveling at how they chose to spin their webs where the porch light attracted all those bugs. Standing there with my hands on my hips I thought, there has to be another way. How could I punish these creatures who were simply being true their nature? Still, the safety of my children and guests was more important.
I looked at the can of Raid. Josiah came out to see what I was going to do.
“You know, it’s bad luck to kill a spider.”
“Yep. I don’t want to kill these spiders.”
At 22, my son knows me very well. He could see the look of determination on my face. I could see the wheels in his brain turning. I love that my kids can be so empathetic to their Mom.
“I could maybe try to get them into a cup and take them somewhere else.”
As much as I wanted to save these spiders, thinking of my son using a cup to try to catch them scared me a bit. No, this was my responsibility. That’s when the idea hit me, to get the old broom in the garage and try to grab the spiders, one by one. I would relocate them.
My first swipe of the broom was a success. I saw the big black spider in the wiry plastic bristles of the broom, where he sat very still, frozen with his own fear, no doubt. I transferred him to a corner area of our yard under some fir trees. One by one I went back to relocate the others. As I released them to different locations, I wished them well.
I felt surprisingly good after the spider’s relocation. At some deeper level it made complete sense. Maybe, in fact, it was a memorial to that spider I first explored in my mouth all those years ago. All my kids could do was laugh when I triumphantly entered the house exclaiming,
“I did it! Just call me the spider relocator from now on, children!” Boy was I proud.
My husband grinned.
The Zombie party was fun. Noone had to worry about the spiders.
I had a new spider tale to tell, a personal adventure that ended happily with no loss of life- mine or the five spiders.
And I assume those five spiders found new spots to spin their webs and live out the rest of their stories.