When I was living in the mountains of California while attending boarding school, one night, peacefully sleeping in my bunk bed, I felt something moving under my covers. And it wasn’t me. I sprung up, ripped off the blankets, and found the biggest, hairiest, scariest spider creepy crawling up my leg. As I started to freak out the spider bit down on my left leg right underneath my kneecap. Within a matter of seconds my entire calf was swollen three times its normal size. I couldn’t feel or move my toes. My left foot went completely numb. A staff member heard the colossal racket coming from our dormitory and came to my rescue. Thankfully, she dialed 911. I was whisked down the mountain in an ambulance, rushed to the emergency room, and learned I had been bitten by a black widow spider.
Upon arriving at the ER they immediately distributed some sort of anti-venom, with plastic tubes and needles, that went directly inside the gaping hole under my kneecap, and down the length of my calf muscle. I sat there in total disbelief watching as they sucked out puss and blood from my leg via some sort of ‘dust buster’ like contraption. The doctor walked a way from me, once, only to call my mother, who was 3,000 miles away in New Jersey. They informed her they may have to amputate my leg…depending on weather or not the medicine worked.
Even though I did not loose my leg that day, or any other day, I am forever traumatized by anything related to spiders.
Which brings me to the point of this blog post.
Once upon a time, I lived in an apartment complex, with my two year old son. And, I was having one of those nights where I couldn’t sleep. So, I decided to embarked upon one of my famous 6 hour cleaning benders. I scrubbed down the kitchen, and I scrubbed down the bathroom, when I suddenly felt the urgent need to remove my mattress, in order to vacuum underneath my bed. Using my freakishly strong upper body strength, I also removed the box spring and placed it against the wall.
And that’s when I saw it.
Big. Black. Hairy. Spider.
At first, I really tried to be brave. I crossed my fingers, and said a little prayer, while attempting to suck up the spider with my vacuum cleaner. But, I had no such luck. And when I saw the spider ‘JUMP’ I lost it. I dropped the vacuum, ran out of my bedroom as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me. I hauled ass – clear across my house – screaming the whole way. I made it into the kitchen and hopped onto the counter.
My two-year old son heard my screams and his tiny little feet carried him into the kitchen right behind me. Soaked in his own tears, he asked, “Was ‘smatter Momma?” “Was ‘smatter Momma?”
I scooped up my son and placed him on my lap, “There is a giant bug in mommy’s room and I can’t kill it. I need someone to help me.”
“Is he a sca-wee bug?” He asked with blue eyes filled with confusion and fear.
“Um. Yeah.” I reached for the telephone. “But it will be okay. I’m going to call Gramma & Poppa, right now.”
I frantically dialed my parent’s house as I held onto my son tightly.
“Mom? Are you there? Are you awake?” I panted. “You have to come help me…” I sobbed into the phone. “There is a really big spider in my room…And I can’t…And I can’t kill it…And I’m too scared…”
My half unconscious mother interrupted my hysterics, “Meleah… Stop.” She spoke calmly and quietly. “Take a deep breath. Where are you now?”
“I’m in the kitchen.” I stammered.
“Where is Justin?”
“He’s on my lap.”
“Meleah,” My mothers voice cracked, “Do you know what time it is? It’s after midnight for Christ sakes!”
“I know!” I yelled. ” And I’m sorry, but pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease? I can’t go back into my room. I just can’t. I’ll never be able to sleep knowing that thing is in my room.” I pleaded with her.
The phone went silent.
I was mentally preparing myself to sleep on the kitchen counter when I heard my mother say, “Fine. I am getting up and coming over. I’ll be there when I get there, but you need to calm down for your son. You are scaring the life out of him. Pull yourself together.”
“Okay. Okay.” I felt relived help was on the way. “So, you’re definitely coming here right?”
I looked at my son and pretended I was fine. “Hey, guess what buddy, Gramma & Poppa are coming over. But we’re going to stay here, on the kitchen counter, until they arrive.”
My son and I waited for what seemed like forever.
Meanwhile, both of my parents got out of bed, put on their clothes, got into their car, and started the 45-minuet drive to my house.
[Side bar: My father is my stepfather and while he’s been married to my mother for a billion years now, at the time of the ‘spider situation’ he was still just my stepfather. This night, is the very night, when he stopped being just my stepfather. This was the night he became ‘My Daddy’. The daddy I’ve always wanted. The daddy I’ve always needed. And the daddy I’ve waited my whole life to find.]
According to my mother, this is what happened on their end.
Mom: “Jesus Christ! Why can’t she have her hysterical moments during the daytime? Does she WAIT for us to go to bed first?”
[Dad is pulling on his jeans while Mom is still sitting on the bed.]
DAD: “I can’t believe I’m driving there to kill a goddam bug.”
MOM: “That’s because you’re not driving there. Where are my shoes?”
[Mom is getting out of the bed and going towards the closet.]
DAD: “Shoes? What are you talking about?”
MOM: “She’s my daughter, she’s my problem. There is no reason for you to drive all the way over there. I’ll use a friggin frying pan to kill the damn bug.”
DAD: “I can’t believe you’re saying this.”
And so started their first (and last) argument about whose daughter I was and whose daughter I would continue to be. While they argued, they climbed down the stairs, yawning and pulling sleep from their eyes. By the time they reached their kitchen my mother relented, giving my father what I’ve learned is the only argument she ever let him win. When they left the house, they were going to rescue THEIR daughter. I was no longer just my mother’s daughter. My father knew I was more than a handful. But he loved me as much as my mother did. And that made me his daughter. And his daughter needed to be rescued. From a spider.
My dad got into the car wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and jacket. My mom, on the other hand, sat in the front seat wearing leggings, asweatshirt, and slippers. (Apparently her shoes remained missing). Sipping their travel cups filled with coffee, and staring through the windshield, neither one spoke to each other until they were almost at my house.
Except, of course for the expletives.
MOM: “I can’t believe we’re doing this. WTF?”
DAD: “I can’t believe we’re doing this either. And we have to go to f*cking work tomorrow morning.”
MOM: “Doesn’t this EVER END? I am so pissed.” (((Sigh))) “If it wasn’t for Justin…” (((Sigh)))
DAD: “Let’s try to calm down.”
MOM: “Well, slow down then. You’re speeding. I really don’t want to get pulled over in my pajamas and slippers.”
DAD: “Oh. That would be perfect, would it? I can just see it now. Cop pulls us over, walks up to the window, flashlight in my face and demands to see my license and registration. But hey, we have a great explanation, right? I’ll just tell him, ‘sorry officer, I know I was speeding, but it’s an emergency. I have to get to my daughter’s house as soon as possible, it’s a real emergency. I have to kill a spider. Apparently, we’re the bug police’.”
When my parents finally got to my apartment they were laughing.
I was still on the kitchen counter with my son when my father walked into my apartment with a face full of smiles.
“So…I hear we have a problem with a spider, huh?”
“Where is it?”
“It was under my bed, but I don’t know where it is now. It’s huge. Even the vacuum wouldn’t suck it up.”
I feverishly explained the whole spider situation to my father and my mother swooped in to take care of my son. She coddled him inside of her arms and remained in the kitchen calming all of our nerves.
My father headed down the hallway toward my bedroom to implement his ‘mad spider catching skillz’.
He was so cool and so collected about the whole thing. He was making jokes from down the hall and my son started laughing. Justin must have felt a lot safer with my parents inside the house – because he suddenly became brave and even curious about the spider. He began peeking around the kitchen corner to see what my father was doing.
My father managed to convince my son to help him catch the spider. “C’mon, Justin! It’s not scary. You can come with me, and we can learn about nature.” And that’s when my son jumped at the chance to help his grandfather.
But, I remained slightly petrified and semi frozen in the kitchen with my mom.
When the two of them came back out of my bedroom my father was clasping his hands together with the spider inside. He was laughing and smiling, as was my son.
My father put his hands close to my face and said, “C’mon Meleah! Look at the spider!”
“NO!” I backed away quickly.
“Oh. C’mon.” He taunted me. “It’s nothing. Just look at the spider.”
“Not. Gunna. Happen.”
Then my father whispered something into my son’s ear.
“Momma.” Justin looked into my eyes with a huge grin on his face, “Soooo okay. You can wooook at it. S’not Bad. Reaww-y.”
I didn’t want to upset my son, “Do you want mommy to look at the spider?”
My two-year old jumped up and down, dancing with excitement, “Yes please!”
And how could I say no to that?
It took everything I had – to muster up the courage – to face that spider.
Gradually, I leaned towards my dad and he slowly opened his cupped palms. I began to see the black leg sticking out of my father’s fingers, and I started to wince.
“It’s FINE, Mel!” My father’s hand was all the way open.
And there it was.
Except that it wasn’t a spider.
It was a broken black Hair Clip.
Made out of plastic.
My parents drove to my house, in the middle of the night, to kill a hair clip.
And to this day, I will never live that down.
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