It is Sunday night, and I decided to retire early to catch up on some much-needed rest I’ve been missing the past week. But it is midnight here in the garden of good and evil, and I don’t seem to sleep much these days. For whatever reason, I am sitting here, reminiscent of both my kids. And spiders.
Growing up, I was more afraid of spiders than I was of the devil himself. And being raised in a hell-fire-and-brimstone religion, that is really saying something. Certain they had been placed on this planet as a consequence for anything we humans had done wrong, I thought I would never conquer my fear. But having children changed all that. Someone had to be the spider killer in the house. And they were both petrified senseless of these nasty, crawly creatures.
My son, Brock, was no small kid. At his peak, he was almost 6’6″ tall, lean and strong. By all measure of reason, no one that large should fear something so small. But even in his 20’s, upon spotting a spider, he would let a yelp resembling that of a little girl and run out of the room – sometimes clean out the door. I can’t count the number of times I heard that sound and entered the room, seeing the front door standing wide open. I didn’t ask questions. I simply grabbed my broom and started searching. When he returned, he would stand at the door waiting for me to give the “all clear”.
My daughter, Jelly, was different. Upon encountering a spider of any size, she would simply freeze and assume a paralytic state, and then hyperventilate.
Shortly after building our house in Monmouth some years ago, we had quite a few spider sightings. I tried to explain to the kids that this was normal for a new building. That didn’t seem to help, not one bit.
One night I was sound asleep. Something woke me, and I opened my bedroom door to find my daughter standing there unable to catch her breath. I asked her what was happening, and she simply responded in whines and gibberish. Listening very intently, I made out two words: “spider” and “bathroom”. I grabbed the broom and told her it would be okay.
Jelly followed close behind, holding my hand and saying over and over, “Mom, it’s the biggest spider I’ve ever seen.” Her breathing had slowed a little, confident I would rush in and remove the unsightly creature, rendering the home and all inhabitants safe again.
“Uh, huh,” I patted her hand, mentally laughing a little. After all, EVERY spider was the biggest one she’d ever seen. But I dutifully just responded, “They all look big when you’re scared, sweetheart. You’ll see.”
Upon opening the bathroom door, she darted behind me, squeezing my hand and holding on for dear life. I looked around, and in a split second, spotted what appeared to be some sort of eight-legged, evil, up-to-no-good monster creeping eerily across the bathroom floor. It was so big someone would have had to hold the door open and invite it in. And it closely resembled what I could only imagine to be the devil’s spawn. To make matters worse, I’m pretty sure it turned and looked right at me as I stood there in the doorway.
Shivers went up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck rose. I let out a shrill sound, similar to that of child’s cry. My reaction started Jelly whimpering and breathing hard again. She looked at me as though she’d lost all confidence in my spider-killing powers. She’d never seen me react in fear to any spider. But this was no ordinary arachnid. This was what gets sent to someone’s house when they commit some kind of serious sin.
In that moment, I felt like I was 10 again. That spider was out to get me, of that I was certain. It took me a few minutes to calm down and assure myself that the beast would not rare up and chase me out the door if I entered.
I did kill that spider, but it didn’t go down without a fight. And by the time the battle in the bathroom was over, I was hyperventilating too.
To top it off, Jelly’s room had to be thoroughly inspected for spiders (every nook and cranny) before she went back to sleep. And I was afraid to check, even though this was a ritual each and every time a spider was spotted somewhere in the house.
There are a hundred more stories of kids and spiders over the years. I remember them as quite comical. My daughter fails to see the humor in it (same for my son years ago). Spiders are nightmare makers and the most evil of all living things. I do not see that changing until my daughter has her own kids. I am saving my broom for her.