It’s a generational thing – my reaction to spiders. I know, because I’ve heard the stories, I’ve seen the spectacles. I’ve danced the dance.
“It’s on me, it’s ON me, IT’S ON ME!”
It has been a creepy-crawly week.
My bathroom was invaded by a BIG black furry spider, and I danced. Even as he lay on his back, his legs curled in the throes of death, he was bigger than a half-dollar. My daughter has a spider bite on her hip. Ewwww! I can’t even think about how it might have crept into her bed at night, only to be squashed as she rolled over in her sleep—biting as its eight creepy legs twitched in agony. It makes me feel crawly-all-over. I’ve read and heard more spider bite stories in the past week than I care to recall.
And then there’s Charlotte.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a photo of my new friend Charlotte. It is, however, a very nice portrait of one of her family members. And since I didn’t want to disturb Charlotte---lest she jump on me, (she was a bit camera shy) I decided this photo, from Wikipedia, which is available under the GNU FDL, was the best alternative. Charlotte shares this spider’s coloring and—ahem---girth. I hope she’s not sensitive about her hips!
Charlotte is a
fat voluptuous brown spider who has been living under the eave of my front porch for several weeks. She sleeps in the daytime, and at dusk, she goes to work. First, she repairs her giant web. Then she waits patiently near the top for the prey that she knows will come.
As soon as the porch light goes on, the moths and bugs begin to congregate. The crisp night air is evidently just right for a bug soirée. Charlotte is a smart hunter. She nimbly navigates her tightrope web, capturing and wrapping the unfortunate insects that find themselves trapped in its silk. I suppose she waits until the wee hours of the morning to drink their blood. I appreciate her thoughtful discretion. I prefer that she dine while I sleep.
Charlotte and I had a late-night discussion, and came to a verbal agreement.
If she stays on the porch, and doesn’t enter the house…
If she helps control the bug population that tries to enter my home through the front door, or the window over which her web is strung…
I won’t let the neighborhood kids poke her with sticks…
I won’t knock her to the ground with a broom and Stomp.Her.Guts.Out.
Because, generally speaking, the dancing, screeching, stomping of guts reaction is my family's pavlovian response to creepy-crawly spiders. My great grandmother used to call it her Saint Vitus dance.
This reaction, as I said before, is a learned response. The women in my family were all fine instructors, I assure you. My childhood memories are crawling with bug related episodes that I will never forget --- mostly because of the way my mother handled them.
When I was but a wee child, before my kindergarten days, I recall the morning that my mother found a tarantula in the bathtub. Evidently this creature had crawled up the drainpipe, like the itsy-bitsy spider of children’s sing-a-long fame.
Only this baby was neither itsy nor bitsy.
My mother, true to her heritage, made what her children now call her ‘satan noise’ --- a deep, guttural bellow of pure terror --- then twitched and ticked her way to the bedroom, where she leapt onto the bed and planted her feet firmly in the mattress yelling for my father to DO SOMETHING!
I can’t remember the first time I heard my mother tell the story of the day she stopped rush-hour traffic. But if I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times. She was driving our little red Volkswagen downtown one afternoon, when she was suddenly overcome with arachnophobia. She slammed on her brakes, threw the car into park, and jumped out of her driver-side door, exhibiting that same twitching, flapping dance.
There was a time when my mother and father were headed down a country road in their old pickup truck. The truck had those wing-vent windows, the kind that push out at an angle and funnel the air back into the cab. My mother lovingly laid her hand on my father’s leg. He suddenly yanked the truck over to the roadside, put it in park, and jumped out of the cab. He yanked down his pants, in front of God and everybody, and sure enough, there on his thigh was a bee sting. The pressure of my mother’s hand had panicked the poor creature, and it had defended itself as only a bee can.
After a careful search for the bee, a moment to dress himself, and a few calming breaths, my dad got back in the truck, and they continued on their way. A while later, mom felt something hit her smack in the middle of the chest – something that felt rather buggish, and bee-like. She panicked, and flapped and beat and clawed her bosom until she had angry red marks all over herself. Once again, dad pulled over to the roadside, and got her calmed down. There in the floorboard was the body of a dead bee – the same one that had died in a battle with my father’s leg and my mother’s hand. Its body had lain on the floor for a while, until a particularly strong draft from the wing-vent windows picked it up and hurled it at my unsuspecting mother’s chest.
The Saint Vitus Dance that day was a clumsy partnership, performed by my parents for the entertainment of fellow country-road travelers.
I could tell you more stories about bugs like the talking roach my aunt found in her new Texas home.
I could share tales about snakes and mice and even a raccoon that inspired the St. Vitus Dance.
But I won’t. Instead, I leave you with evidence that the St. Vitus phenomenon is not only hereditary. It can be passed between friends.
Across the miles, and mega-html-byte-world-wide-ram-dsl-particles of the internet, St. Vitus can be transferred.
It is true.
Don’t believe me? Check out this lovely autumn tale, told by my dear bloggy friend, Kari.
And don’t say I didn’t warn you.