My mom was an animal lover. That is an understatement. Rescue, nurture, feed: these were her go-to mantras. Back in the day when I was young, dogs ran freely. Sometimes if cruel people didn't want a dog anymore they just dropped it off on the side of a gravel road outside of town and drove away. Often those lost dogs would show up on our doorstep like they had followed a sign, unseen to humans, but neon bright and flashing to them: WELCOME! TURN IN HERE FOR FOOD AND A WARM BED. Sometimes these dogs just stayed the night, other times they lived out their lives under the gentle care of this lovely rescuer.
One day she discovered that a spider had spun a big web in her living room. It was under a window and attached to a buffet just within sight of the chair where she sat most often. Ninety-nine percent of us would have been appalled at such sanctuary, but not my creature loving mother! She let this little arachnid live, each day checking in to see how things were progressing. Often when her four-year-old grandson, Shaun, came to visit, she would lead him to the web where they could talk about all things spider.
(I was married and living far away when this was happening so I testify to the fact that I had no knowledge of this! My mother was not senile. She loved living things and wanted to use this innocent little spider as a teaching tool for her dear grandson.)
At least that is what she said.
In the fall of that year, probably thirty years ago, she was shopping one day when she spied a huge black Halloween spider. Immediately she made a plan as she took it to the counter, a twinkle in her eye and a little sly smile on her face.
The next time Shaun came over she carefully placed that huge hairy spider near the corner where the real spider hid. When he came in the house she exclaimed, "Shaun! Look! Our spider has grown!" His eyes got big and his face paled a bit but pretty quickly he smiled brightly at the trick his grandma tried to play on him.
I wonder if her real spider had a name. Could it have been Charlotte? If mom had looked closely could she perhaps have seen some secret words woven in the web? Words like SOME GRANDMA or TERRIFIC or HUMBLE? I like to think perhaps she would have. They would have all fit her perfectly,
This month our kid lit club read several selections by E.B. White. I chose to read Charlotte's Web, a darling story about one special spider, named Charlotte, who befriended Wilbur, a farm pig destined for the chopping block. It is a tender story about childhood, friendship, kindness, and love. I encourage you to pick it up if you haven't read it. You may have to wipe away a tear but it will have been worth it to travel back in time and re-experience a bit of your lost childhood.
As for my mother, I'm sure Shaun thought he had the best grandma in the world. And you know what? He would have been right.