The happy spider - FamilyEducation

The happy spider

May 28,2008

* Let me preface this by saying that we do not live in squalor, but in the South, and it's summer and buggy. Enough said.

I snuck upstairs this morning to get my shoes right before heading off to work. T. was, supposedly, still sleeping. When I crept into our bedroom, though, I found her wide awake, lying on her back in our bed and staring at the wall in rapt concentration--like someone studying something very detailed and absorbing.

"Mama," T. whispered to me in hushed tones. "There was a happy spider on the ceiling, and now he's on the wall!"

She pointed with her finger and I followed it and saw, on the opposite wall...a large, brown roach.

"Is THAT the happy spider?" I asked her, biting my lip at the same time to stifle a scream.

T. nodded.

I know we are supposed to set good examples for our kids to follow, and that they pick up many of their attitudes about the ups and downs of life from us, but I just couldn't help it.

"Roach!" I yelled to Scott. "Come and GET THIS ROACH!"

Despite all the commotion, T. still insisted all the time that it was a happy spider, and not a roach. This is T., through and through. She sees the good in everything. If we're driving and there's a bug on her window she'll exclaim: "There's a pretty butterfly on my window!" We'll look and discover some nasty, long-legged thing, and promptly eject it from the car. She has become an ambassador to all small children, walking up to them in the library, or at the park, slipping her hand in theirs, and asking them in gentle tones: "Do you want to play with me?" She is gentle with all animals, stopping to pet them carefully on the tops of their heads, and gazing closely into their eyes as if trying to read their very thoughts.

It's especially touching to me, though, to see her insert character judgments on bugs and creatures. I remember doing the same thing when I was small--the product, I think, of having too many children's books read to me that featured talking animals and bugs. But at some point, clearly, I stopped seeing bugs in a positive Miss Spideresque light--as critters with feelings, and families to go home to, and cars of their very own made out of walnut shells. Somewhere along the way, bugs became creepy and disgusting and worthy of smashing RIGHT AWAY. They've lost their charm for me, those bugs, and I can't imagine ever lying in bed in my jammies, quiet and contemplative, while a coffee-colored roach makes its way slowly across my bedroom ceiling.

The roach didn't get smashed, as it turned out. Scott tried but it fell away to safety, as roaches will do, and disappeared. I've tried to put it out of my mind--I really have. But I know, come bedtime, I won't be able to sleep for fear of that thing still being out there, somewhere in the dark.

"Pretend it's a happy spider," Scott told me this morning as I left for work.

I can try, I suppose. I'll imagine it smiling and whistling to itself as it scurries about in the dark, headed, perhaps, for its walnut shell car and a night of joy riding across out bedroom ceiling.