It’s ironic that we live in bear and moose country in Alaska, but the kids’ most scarring animal and insect stories always happen in Nebraska.
In 2008 we had our first Nebraska summer trip, and our 4-year-old Sam was terrified through half of it. With his full-blown insect phobia, he wasn’t a happy camper in the tall weeds of Nebraska. I’d hold him on my hip, his feet kicking in fear and protest lest I set him down into the grass with the chirping crickets. He hopped higher than the grasshoppers whenever he would see one. He spent more time scooping dead bugs from the kiddie pool than swimming in it, and we won’t even talk about his reaction to bees and wasps. Insects were bad, but those that flew and buzzed were the stuff of nightmares.
Three years ago it was Maggie. She must have been 3-years-old, constrained in her 5-point-harness car seat. I left the kids in the car for two minutes while I put the dog into his kennel, and the next thing I knew both kids were shrieking. A daddy-long-legs spider was crawling up Maggie’s body and she was helpless to do anything about it. She was kicking and shrieking and screaming, and even Sam was scarred just watching the ordeal. As they tell it the spider made its way all the way up to her face.
Two years ago it was poor Maggie again. I was down at the barn picking mulberries when her howling sent me bolting back to the house. She had been running through the grass, barefoot, and stepped on a black snake with a yellow stripe. Both kids were again terrified and trembling on the porch when I found them. We tried to assure her that it was a harmless bull snake, but in all honestly I would have wigged out too.
This year the terror moved inside, for all of us. The kids were happily playing with my childhood Smurfs:
I had a lot of Smurfs. Whenever we come home, the kids use them to invade the Fisher Price castle:
But back to the story. Two nights ago my sister was standing in the living room doorway, gabbing away when she stopped mid-sentence and started screaming. Maggie looked up from the Smurfs at the commotion. She pointed and screamed “MOUSE!!!” before leaping over the castle and onto my lap. Sam piled on top of her and I must admit my legs were as far off the ground as possible too. The three of us were stacked on the recliner like dominoes while that little brown hairball of terror zig-zagged around the room.
My parents were shockingly calm. Mom went into soccer mode, using her feet to keep the intruder from leaving the room. In the end my dad caught it in his hand… still alive… and threw it outside. (Quite possibly to return another day, which is why I cannot sleep at night!)
I am not sure whether to be repulsed or amazed with my dad’s actions. I grew up in this farm house and mice were always a part of life. But we don’t have them at our home in Alaska, and suddenly the scurrying little rodents terrify the snot out of me. It’s like hydroplaning down the highway in a torrential Midwestern downpour… I was fine with it as a teenager, but it’s simply not something I’m used to doing these days.
Strange but true, but my comfort zone now includes icy roads, bears, and moose. At least they all stay outside my house!