A few minutes ago, I walked into the kitchen barefoot to get my morning coffee. When I removed the coffee container from the cupboard, a tiny spider scurried out of his/her hiding place, dropped over the edge to the counter, and then to the floor. It just sat there, so I figured it was dazed from the bungie jump without a cord. Careful not to step on it, I got my coffee and returned to my desk.

Later I went back to get a refill, and I’d forgotten about the spider. When the realization hit me that I might have just squashed it, my foot recoiled like a spring. But I didn’t look. I just hopped around on one leg, and my heel until I got a paper towel to wipe off my foot. Again I didn’t look. But I did talk. “Oooh,” I heard myself say. “So sorry little fellow. Hope you got away before I came back.”

I do not usually talk to bugs or animals—and some days, not even to people as I work alone at home. However, I do talk to spiders and have for nearly 40 years. You see, my only child, a boy, seemed addicted to all  life’s critters, especially snakes, slimy creek things and spiders. At first, I did the squeamish girl thing, trying to avoid any contact, which of course was not possible unless I refused to check pockets for the wash. Then post washing, was really something to be squeamish about!

No, I just gave in and in fact converted. When he turned four, we started going to nature classes together at the museum of natural history. Snake classes—yes and field trips. And yes again. Identifying them, handling the harmless ones and searching for more. (Incidentally, it’s true: they are not slimy!)

The critters all had fascinating histories and quirky habits—all food for thought for my brain that craves learning anything new. The bonding that took place with my son was beyond definition or words. It would have been hard for any two people to have been more close.

While I was a converted buddy outside, that didn’t transfer to inside the house. Until one day, I found a spider web in a corner and got the broom. Poised to strike, I stopped with the broom in mid strike. “Mommmmmmmm!” I heard this frantic voice behind me call out. “Stop! You know spiders are good. They eat bad bugs. YOU CAN’T KILL SPIDERS!”

Slowly I brought the broom back to the floor, leaving the spider smiling back at me from her now very safe home. My son is long gone so instead of talking to him, I still talk to spiders. I don’t intentionally kill them.  When it happens unintentionally, I feel a little guilty all day.

I’m sure glad he didn’t pick flies or rodents to defend. But it makes me stop and think. Not killing spiders only means that my neighbors think I’m a lousy housekeeper. Since that’s true, no harm no foul. Would I have protected flies and rodents? I don’t think so. I do wonder what else I protect, defend or promote because someone else told me to. Old scripts are like that. It’s probably a good idea once in awhile to ponder on those that are harmless, those that are stupid, and those that are detrimental.

“Sorry, little fellow.”