Here's something you should know about me: I'm generally cool under pressure. Especially around my kids. Daughter falls on the playground and blood is gushing out of her nose? No problem. Apply pressure and wash off the blood with a water bottle (or a water fountain) while singing "A Spoonful of Sugar." Get stuck in airport security and miss the flight with three kids in tow? Easy. Dial the airline while waiting in line for an agent and play "I Spy" with a million grey objects. Freak out later. In private.
But there was a day last summer that shall go down in infamy in our house. It was the day that my children saw me totally and completely lose it.
Let's go back.
Last summer was a strange one weather-wise. Where we live, outside of Chicago, it only felt like real summer for about a week. In August, I was eight months pregnant and thoroughly enjoying it. It also meant that all sorts of various (and unusual) species of insects and arachnids were hatching earlier than expected and flourishing in the mild weather. (At least according to my exterminator.) And that brings us to that fateful day.
I had gone out to the garage to get the storage bin of baby toys. In my green-pattered frock and sandals, I practically skipped through the grass to get it. The nesting had begun! My son was right at my heels, telling me about a game he had played at a friend's house and asking if he could buy it with his recent birthday money. When he wants something, the kid is like a dog with a bone. This was no light discussion. We traipsed back across the yard to our kitchen, where I started the process of washing the toys, all while trying (and failing) to explain the value of saving one's money.
That's when I felt it. A tickle. A tickle on the back of my neck. I brushed my hair back, thinking it might have been a loose strand, but the tickle continued. Hmm. "Hey, buddy. Could you check to see if I have a mosquito bite back there or something? It's really itchy. Do you see a mosquito or a red spot or anything?" I bent backwards a bit so his six-year-old eyes could see the back of my neck. He gasped. I turned around and looked at him. His eyes were as big as saucers, as he said, slowly and deliberately, "It's not a mosquito." He lowered his head, but kept his eyes locked on mine as he continued, "But it is ... a really big ... black ... spider."
That was it for me. I launched into some kind of strange jumping, head-scratching interpretive dance. "Did I get it?! Is it off of me?!" I asked him, starting to panic.
By now, the girls, who had been playing nicely with their princess dolls had come into the kitchen to see what all the commotion was about. They stood side by side, mouths agape, as I flailed around. My son, seeing the panic in my eyes and, with a definite effort to keep me calm, said, "It's not on your neck anymore, but ... it did ... go down ... the back of your dress."
Oh, Lord have mercy on my soul!!! I pulled that dress over my head so fast that I could have been in training to be part of an Indy pit crew. And if the girls thought they were witnessing something special before, they were now in for a real treat, because I completely lost it. I mean, completely and totally lost my mind. The screaming. (Oh, the screaming!) I'm sure that my neighbors three doors down heard me. You could best describe it as "posessed banshee." I was in an all-out Rites-of-Spring-inspired flail-fest. My hair, now ratted out all over my head from my frantic scratching, was the least crazy part of the picture.
There I was: eight-months pregnant, down to my skivvies and sandals, flailing around my kitchen with wild hair and wilder eyes.
"DID I GET IT?!!? IS IT STILL ON ME?!?" I screamed at my son, who now looked totally shocked. "Uh. Yeah. It's not on you anymore. You know you don't have any clothes on, right?" "I KNOW!!!" I yelled back. "I JUST NEED IT OFF OF ME!!!" He side-eyed his sisters and the three of them started to giggle.
"Pull it together, woman," I thought. "They're right. This is completely absurd." So, I reached down and picked up my dress with the tips of my fingernails. I took a big breath and, as calmly as I could manage, I said, "Okay, team. We can do this. We are going to figure this out. Okay. Okay. What do I need to do first?" Really, I was talking to myself more than I was talking to them, but I had asked the question. And my son provided an answer: "I think you need a new dress." I looked at him and smiled. He did not smile back. This was clearly the obvious solution. But I would not be beaten by a spider! And I liked that green dress.
"No," I replied in utter defiance. "This dress is perfectly fine. We just need to find the spider on it. Okay, everyone. Peel your eyes and help me find the giant spider. Just yell out when you see it." I slowly rotated the dress, sure that the Arachnid of Terror was going to pop off of it and run across my toes at any moment. Or worse, that it had already crawled off of the dress and was making a nest somewhere in my kitchen.
"There! There it is! There it is!" cried my eldest daughter. "I used my eagle eyes and I see it! Right there on the bottom of the dress!" And, indeed, there it was. I have only seen its equal in horror movies or possibly at the zoo. But there it was: an enormous, ugly spider hanging onto the hem of my dress.
"Quick! Open the back door!" I commanded my son. He looked at me like I was certifiably insane (and, let's face it, he probably had a case at that point) and asked, "You're not going out like that, are you?" I looked at his big blue eyes, wide open in what I can only image was the feeling of being appalled at his mother's brazen ways, and said, "Yes. Yes, I am. I'm going to go shake out the dress on the back porch and, if the neighbors are out there and really want to see this ... well, ... more power to 'em. Now, open the door please."
Slowly, all the while looking at me like I was an alien who had body-snatched his mother, he calmly opened the door and I sprang into action. There I went: Outside. Eight-months pregnant. In my underwear. And I shook the living daylights out that dress until I saw the spider land on the porch. Then ran back inside and slammed the door. The girls were screaming in terror. I threw my dress back over my head, took a deep breath, and grabbed my phone. I was heading back out to the porch when my youngest daughter tugged on the hem of my dress and said, matter-of-factly, "I no like spiders." Well said, little one. Now, out of the way. Mama's got to take care of some business!
I took a picture of the spider and texted it to my exterminator with a note that read, "Hey Bob. This thing may or may not have bitten me. Is it poisonous? Do I need to drive to the nearest hospital?" He wrote back, "No concern. Not parasitic." This is the picture. It is hard to tell how big this thing actually is, but you can see the maple seed ("Whirlybird/helicopter" seed) next to it. I may be prone to exaggeration at times, but this is not one of them.
Now, a couple of people have asked me why I didn't just squish the spider when I saw it. I suppose if I had squished it, I wouldn't have been able to ask what type of spider it was. I certainly wouldn't have had the picture. Honestly, it didn't even occur to me to squish it. All I could think about was getting it out of my house. And I'm glad I didn't squish it, because it certainly makes for a better story. Somewhere, the Arachnid Enemy lives on (or not). I just know it's not on my neck anymore.
For now, I giggle every time I think about what I must have looked like through my children's eyes. I wonder if that image of me will be burned into their retinas for all eternity. I kind of hope so. I hope that one day, when they're grown with families of their own, they will get a good chuckle out of it. I know I did.