Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Life and Death and Spiders

I’d love to tell you about the past week…about my business trip to Denmark and subsequent culture shock, information overload, and feelings of inadequacy over not being multilingual. I’d love to tell you about Z’s birthday and the cake I made (from scratch) and how we celebrated.

But there is something that eclipses all of that and it’s really urgent for me to get out there, in the open and off my chest.

We have a problem. A spider problem. And I’m really afraid that it might actually be my fault. You see, it all started when we first moved in to our German house. We have this big, wonderful basement that houses our laundry room and two additional rooms that we use for storage. The basement is a true basement in that it’s completely underground, so it’s wonderfully cool and quiet down there. At least I use to think of it that way. ..

A few days after we had moved in and were done unpacking, I was downstairs doing some laundry. I walked out of the laundry room and a movement caught my eye. Hiding in the corner underneath the stairs was a small spider, maybe only the size of a dime (or 5 Euro cent piece).

I froze. How am I supposed to live with this? What do I do? Does he sense my fear?

Pull it together, Katie. You’re bigger than this.

I made up my mind to kill the spider. Then something stopped me. The tiniest little twinge, this little unwelcome thought that curled into my mind like a poisonous tendril wrapped in fragrant flowers. “What harm is he doing there? He’s in the basement, not your bedroom. He’s tiny. He’s probably actually doing you a favor by eating other bugs. Let him stay…” And then, the clincher…”He’s one of God’s creatures, after all.”

I firmly believe that my decision to let that spider live was a direct result of where I’m at on my life journey right now. I’m feeling confident and exhilarated by the fact that so far, I’ve managed to be a successful and functioning human being in another country, living away from everything that is familiar. I’m doing this. I can drive a 5-speed, for Pete’s sake. My whole life is a blank canvas. WHAT CAN’T I ACCOMPLISH!? It was on this heady life-high that I decided to not kill that little spider.  Looking back on it, it was a decision based on pride. “Look at me. Living abroad. Cooking dinner. Making scones. Driving around. Letting spiders live. IT’S THE NEW EURO-KATIE!”

I informed Z of the spider situation and he was appropriately impressed that I let the arachnid live and he agreed that it was probably a good decision in terms of overall pest control. So we settled in, we and the spider, in a kind of nervous harmony. Every time I went downstairs, I checked on him. He was always there and always appropriately backed into his corner whenever I walked by. I felt good about this since it showed I had established dominance and was effectively the alpha of the household. The human-spider hierarchy was set and it was agreeable. He caused no problems. He stayed in his corner. It was good.

A few weeks later, in a haze of hyperventilation and panic, I sent this text to Zach.

“Umm. Something happened. Either our spider suddenly grew a LOT or there’s a new spider downstairs and he is BIG and I’m NOT ok and I’m going to kill him. No, scratch that. You’re going to kill him when you get home. I don’t feel safe in my own home.”

(I just want you to know that I actually got goose bumps as I was writing this. And I’m feeling a little bit itchy. )

Z responded with something that was not at all comforting and not nearly on par with the level of urgency I was feeling about the situation. I had already planned how to never go downstairs again and I was even entertaining the idea of moving out completely. The situation obviously escalated quickly. I knew Z didn’t understand what was happening, so I decided to just try to hang in there until he got home a few hours later. I spent those hours tense and jumpy, sure that I was seeing things out of the corner of my eye and convinced that spiders were mounting an invasion on our house. I kept thinking to myself “this is what you get, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET for being brave and kind and generous. You get huge, terrifying, menacing spiders.”

I vowed to never make this mistake again.

Z got home and I wasted no time. “Go downstairs. You go downstairs and kill that spider.”

And he’s all “Hi to you, too. How was your day?”


So he goes and I wait upstairs, ears cocked to hear his reaction. “Whoa. Holy cow. Oh my gosh, that’s a big spider. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spider that big. I mean, I’ve seen tarantulas, but….whoa. That is definitely not our spider.”

I felt simultaneously triumphant and sick. Zach successfully killed the spider and thus fulfilled one of the big reasons I got married (right up there with heavy lifting and jar opening).

We spent the rest of our night…ok not true…Z continued with his night as normal…I spent the rest of MY night feeling a little panicky and saying things like “Do you think there are others? Do you think he killed our spider? Where did he come from?” In my mind, there’s an army of spiders hiding in the basement walls, each bigger than the last, just waiting for their moment. Sure, it’s one thing to find them in the basement, but the minute I find one in the bathroom or bedroom…I shudder at the thought. I kept wrestling with feelings of guilt…if I had only done a mercy killing of our little spider, then he would have been saved from what was surely a brutal attack by the big one…if I had only killed the little spider upon first sight so that the house would have been established as one of zero tolerance and the big spider would have never been so bold to make his move here. If only…if only…if only…

Mostly I was just grateful that the scene of the crime had so far been isolated to the basement. I hoped with the killing of the giant spider, peace would be restored.

A few days later, as I carefully hugged the walls furthest away from the spider corner, I glanced over and saw that our little spider had victoriously (miraculously?) returned. I felt an odd mixture of happiness and disgust. I was happy to have him back. Compared to the big daddy spider, he was like having a kitten in the basement corner. But I worried about how out of control this spider thing had become. I mean, what kind of person am I that I willingly invited this danger into our home? I had a lot of soul searching to do.

Weeks passed. The nervous balance returned. But then something started to feel a little strange. I hadn’t seen the little spider in a few days. I was ok with it…but my spider-sense went on high alert. Why is he gone? What is amiss?

The answer came this morning. I walked down to grab some clothes from the laundry room and nearly died. In a terrible, heart-stopping moment, I looked into the corner and saw ANOTHER. HUGE. SPIDER.


Z came to the rescue and killed the spider while I stood in the laundry room with my eyes closed repeating “Is he dead? Is he dead? Is he dead?” like some creepy mantra. I spent the next half-hour with a stomachache.

So it’s settled then. I’m buying some spider-killing insect spray at the store. I think the lesson we can all take away from this experience is this: If you mercifully spare the life of one spider, you will ultimately take the life of three.

Cross-stich that on a pillow for the grandkids.


1 comment:

  1. I got such a chuckle out of this blog because I have rodent- phobia much like your arachnid - phobia....I feel your pain!