I Dreamed of My Father


Some dreams are only dreams. They come to us through the mixing of our yearnings and our fears. They drift through our sleep, filled with images and sounds forged from both memory and wish.

They feel as insubstantial as clouds. They exist, but they are made of nothing we can touch.

But some dreams are more. Some of them, when we are very lucky, are truly visits from those we have lost.

Last night my father came to see me. He came to me as I slept because he’s been gone from this earth for more than ten years now.

I dreamed of my Dad.

I dreamed that I was walking in a foggy place. I couldn’t see what was around me, but I felt myself moving. And then I saw him, my Dad. Right there, right in front of me.

I felt myself begin to cry. I felt the pain in my chest, and in my throat. There were tears on my face that I felt as they moved down my cheeks. I sobbed and felt the loss of breath.

In my sleep, I reached for Dad, expecting to be aware of him only as a dream. I expected the one dimensional feel of him; an image that I could see but one that would have no substance.

Instead, as I hugged him, I felt the warmth of his breath in my hair and the feel of his arms around me. A shock of recognition and awareness jolted through me, and I said, “Oh, Dad, it’s really you!”

He laughed. His real, Dad laugh, and put his hand on my cheek. “Oh,” he said, in his own voice. “I’m here! Don’t cry!”

I held his hand in mine and looked at his fingers, his knuckles, the way the skin was pulled smooth across the back of his hand. I felt the rough texture of his palm and the pads of his fingers.

These were details that I’d forgotten about him. Awake, I would never have known them again.

But he was there. Smiling at me, laughing at the foolishness of my grief. As often happens in these vivid, “visitation” dreams, I knew what he was thinking without hearing all of his words.

“It’s OK! You’re fine.” I felt that he was amused and touched by my sadness, but I knew that it didn’t worry him.

And then the visit was over.

I don’t remember him leaving, but I remember waking up, feeling comforted, but feeling cheated, too. He had been there, for really real, but he was gone again.

I dreamed of my Father. I smelled his skin, felt the softness of his hair. I was held in his arms, against his familiar chest.

It was him. He was here.

I want to go back to sleep. I want him to come and see me once again.

Dad and I, once upon a time.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…


I don’t understand it. I just don’t. 

Why are some women born with an innate ability to decorate the spaces they inhabit, while other women are born with the idea that plaids look great with stripes?

Now don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I dislike home decorating. That isn’t it at all! In fact, I yearn for the day when I will live in a place where every item is artfully chosen and precisely arrange.

It’s just that when I actually try to decorate my home, I inevitably come up with something that looks like it was done by a third grader let loose in K-Mart.

I didn’t even know that I was born with this deficiency until I had lived in this house (the one and only home we have ever owned) for several years. We were contemplating a paint job in the living room, and I decided to ask one of my many decoratingly gifted relatives for help. 

“So Sue,” I asked my sister-in-law, “Do you think the living room would look good in a shade of Colonial blue?” (This was the 90’s. Don’t judge.) I mean, I was proud of myself for even knowing there was such a thing as “Colonial blue.”

Sue paused for a minute, looking around the room. “Well,” she said, “That depends on what you want to do with the kitchen and the dining room. You have to make sure that your colors flow.”

Flow??? My colors are supposed to…..um….flow???

I though she was referring to spilled paint, but it turns out that she meant that since all of the rooms connect and are visible to each other, the colors should be compatible.

Oh.

Sure.

She helped me pick out flowing colors, and the painting was done. Phew!

Over the years, with the help of both of my stylish sisters and my three “we could have our own showrooms” sisters-in-law, I have learned a few things. I sponge painted the upstairs at one point. I learned that the bath towels are supposed to match the hand towels which need to be color coordinated with the rugs, the soap dispenser and the shower curtain.

I now use table cloths when I have company, and they are (sorta kinda) color matched to my curtains, lampshades and picture frames.

I’m getting better!  Yay, me!

But now it’s Christmas. 

Now I am faced once again with the inarguable fact of my complete lack of taste. 

Christmas decorating in this house means pulling out the old, puppy chewed toys from my husband’s youth. It means dredging out the aging, beloved, lopsided popsicle stick ornaments that our kids made 20 years ago. If I have been particularly inspired, it might mean a new Christmas candle or two.

What it doesn’t mean, (because I. Can’t. Pull. It. Off. ) is a perfectly arranged side table with crystal ornaments artfully displayed alongside beeswax tapers and perfect Charles Dickens lanterns. It doesn’t mean a gorgeous arrangement of antique toys or a tiny sparkling Christmas village complete with skating Victorian era children.

Oh, sure. I can put out a glass dish of red and green m&ms, but that’s my limit. How the hell does everybody else even FIND all those perfectly shaped, matching-the-wall-colors, adorable little decorative boxes? Huh? 

How do all the other women just automatically KNOW how to set up the miniature reindeers? AND how the hell do they get miniature reindeers wearing bows that match their living room lampshades? 

If any of you out there know the code to get into the secret society of decorating genius women, will you please, please let me know? 

Meanwhile, I’ll be in the attic seeing if I can find the 40 year old plastic Santa with the chewed off mitten. He’s supposed to stand on the shelf next to floppy Frosty with the frayed scarf.

Yeah. This was our tree one year. 

Bathrooms Are So Very….Necessary


Our house is an interesting place these days. I mean, like really, ya know….”interesting’.

We are renovating two bathrooms. That means that we are now tearing apart two out of our two bathrooms.

Ergo: we don’t have any bathroom sinks this week. And we only have one working toilet. The one that is in the hall of our main living area. The one that has (cough, cough), no DOOR.

Now, let me be clear. Our house is about 35 years old. We’ve been here for roughly 28 of those years. We have been in the same bathrooms all this time.

Oh, sure, we’ve painted and put in a couple of new medicine cabinets after the original $3.95 cabinets kind of fell apart. We did a little bit to make things better, but still.

We were bathing in a wicked old tub and a wicked old shower. The drains were…in a word….gross. The bathrooms had those horrific “popcorn” ceilings. 

It was PAST TIME to update.

And we are.

We have hired a crew of very skilled men who are ripping things to pieces while adding plaster, paint, a new tub, new shower, new toilets, new vanity. It’s gonna be LOVELY. 

But. 

In the meantime…..

I am here in my house. With two or three toddlers every day.  One is in a diaper, so he’s safe, but the other two? Well….they need a toilet every two hours. Or less. 

So I have to call out to the nice worker men, “Can we use the toilet!?” They say “Yes!” and go into another room. Then I take the identified toddler and put her on the pot. I stand in the doorway, since both are suddenly all about “privacy” and we have NO. DOOR. on our bathroom.

Here it is:

Sure, there’s a working toilet, but…….no door…

This means, of course, that the kids sometimes pee in their pants. It means that the working men have to tell me, “Just a head’s up, gonna use the bathroom!”

And it means that old Nonni here holds it in. All. Day. 

Like….all day.

Nonni is channeling her inner teacher. But still…..yikes. 

It means that when the kids go home and the worker men go home, and Papa hasn’t arrived back from work yet….Nonni rushes right into the incomplete bathroom and finds some relief.

New shower! New floor! No toilet or sink!!!!

It also means that at 3 AM when Nonni feels the call of nature, she has to stand up, turn on her phone’s light and stand there for a minute. She has to think “Wait. Bathroom. Huh? Bathroom? What bathroom? Oh, yeah in the hall….with no door….in the middle of the freakin’ night…..”   Nonni finally gets there, but she is left with a strange feeling of “what the FUCK?” as she climbs back into bed after answering the call of nature.

This is a very strange place to be.

And here we are now. At 6PM. The kids and workers have gone home. I have organized and cleaned the living room and started dinner.

And I look around the house, thinking about Nonni’s needs.

We do have one working toilet (thank you, dear Lord, for the half hour with nobody home except for poor old backed up Nonni!). We have a new floor in our small master bath (Nonni will sing the praises of these worker men for months….) We have smooth walls, with no paint or color….we have no sinks, but we can brush our teeth in the kitchen sink for a couple of more days…..

Nonni is working very very hard to remain calm and serene. She is overlooking the plaster dust, the missing toilets, the lack of bathroom doors. She is trying to embrace her inner camper woman, she is trying to recognize that many people around the world are in much worse shape…..

But.

Nonni is kind of “all done.” I will be thrilled to have new paint, new fixtures, new smooth walls. 

But I am ready to have this all done. Nonni is ready, thank you, to have a nice, private place to go to get some relief from nature’s most primitive urges.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Good Thing We Have Holidays


My house is generally sort of clean. Ish. I sweep the floors or vacuum pretty much every day. I have been known to wash my floors (if its muddy and the dogs have been coming in and out.)

I don’t do clutter. Unless you count the pile of papers that live on my counter, waiting to be looked at later.

So, you know. We are generally pretty clean.

But all I can say is that it’s a damn good thing that we have the occasional holiday. And it’s a damn good thing that I host them sometimes.

I say this because even thought today is a full three days before Thanksgiving, I have already cleaned two closets, dusted 25 picture frames (do you clean people do this on a regular basis?) and completely reorganized by kitchen.

I’ve located matching wineglasses and cleaned them all. I’ve counted out enough matching napkins for every guest to have one. Except me. I’ll get the mismatched napkin, but it’s all good. No doubt everyone will notice my extreme self sacrifice.

Today I found myself noticing all the dead bugs that have collected in various light fixtures. Ewwwwww and yuuuuuuuuuuuk all at once.

So there I was, standing on a chair, unscrewing light globes and shades, removing bulbs, and washing and dusting all of it. The back it all went.

What the heck.

I feel like I do a fairly, sorta, kinda good job of keeping ahead of the dust bunnies and grime. 

At least I try!!!

But after all, it’s a good thing that at least once a year I have a reason to reach down deep and really get things clean.

Excuse me now. I need to go scrub the baseboards behind the toilet.

Pretending


I’m 62 years old. My back hurts pretty much every damn day. My neck is stiff. My knees are achy.

But.

I’m Nonni.

I have kids here in my house. Ergo: I must pretend.

Today my little Ellie asked to watch her favorite movie, “Frozen.” I agreed right away because I love the music in this movie. And I love the lesson that it teaches, too. “True love” isn’t necessarily found in the arms of the cute guy who makes you swoon.

True love is found when one truly loves.

Great theme. Great music. Great imagery in the movie.

So when Ellie asked to watch, I was happy to say, “Sure!”

But.

After watching roughly a quarter of the movie, Ellie announced, “I’m done with the movie, Nonni. Turn it off!”

And I did.

Which meant that Ellie came running into the room with her “Elsa dress”, asking me to zip her into the dress and give her “one big braid”, just like Elsa. I did what I was told to do and before I knew it, I found myself playing the role of little sister “Anna” to Ellie’s Queen “Elsa.”

Now, given the fact that we have little Johnny in our care, as well as two small but energetic dogs, we had pretty much the main cast of the movie right in our living room.

“You’re Anna!” Ellie told me. “You need to try to follow me, but I will run away!”

Johnny was given the role of Olaf, the snowman. Lennie was the snowmonster and silly Bentley was put in the role of “Sven” the goofy reindeer.

To be clear, we didn’t actually follow the story line of the movie. But we did spend almost an entire day running up and down the hall in our house, shouting with intense emotion.

“Elsa!” I would yell, “My dear sister!! Don’t leave me!”

“Stay back!!! Stay away!!!!” Ellie yelled back over and over again, “I love you, but I will freeze your heart!”

“ahhhhhha! Mmmmmmah!” Johnny/Olaf crowed every time the two of us ran down the hall.

“Grrffffff..mmmmmmm…..?” the dogs would whine as we ran past them through the house.

This went on for hours. The entire day was taken up with Elsa, Anna, Olaf and the meaning of “true love.”

And as I sit here tonight, my back throbbing and my neck sore, I think I understand what Princess Anna meant when she talked about true love.

I think she meant the joy that an old lady could feel when asked to pretend once again. I thinks she meant the feeling that a Nonni could feel while sitting back and watching her grandchildren completely embrace the role of magical movie characters.

When I held Ellie on my knee today, watching the end of the movie, I was overwhelmed with the magic when she turned and whispered in my ear, “Look, look! That’s me making the ice castle! Look! It’s me sending you away!”

Ellie lived completely within that movie today. She WAS Elsa, the Queen who was afraid of her own emotions. And that let me live for a while as Anna, the Princess who loved and trusted her sister.

What a gift.

What an amazing and incredible gift it is to spend time in the imaginary world of the very young.

th-1

Yup. That’s Ellie and me. Looking amazing.

Those Long, Long Days


I remember when I was a young Mom, feeling as if some days just lasted forever.

Like. For-freakin’-ever.

I remember hot, hot summer days, the ones where I was home alone with all three kids. I can clearly picture myself looking at the clock after having cooked, served and cleaned up breakfast, broken up two fights, done a load of laundry, swept the floor and helped to make four beds.

I remember it like it was yesterday, glancing up at the kitchen clock and thinking, “Damn! The battery must have run down. No WAY it’s only 9:15 in the morning!!!!”

I remember being wrong. It was, in fact, early morning and I had many, many hours ahead of me.

At the age of 35, that was not a pleasant realization. I remember the way that those days seemed to tick by with each second taking longer than the one before it.

I just wanted to get to dinner time, to have Dad home, to get everyone into bed and to Go. To. Sleep.

But now I’m older and wiser.

I’ve made more than a few journeys around the sun on this old planet. Now those long, long days have a whole different feel to me.

I’ll give you an example.

Yesterday was one of the very few gorgeous fall days that New England has experienced this year. It was breezy, cool, bright and perfectly sunny. The sky was a deeply calming blue, with cartoonishly puffy white clouds drifting slowly by. The leaves were gently twirly and falling through the soft air.

The kids wanted to go outside, so outside we went. Coats on, mittens slipped over reluctant thumbs, sneakers firmly attached to feet, out we went. All three of us stopped on the front step, breathing in the clean, clean air.

Ellie, our three year old explosion of joy, threw out her arms, twirled on the wet grass and crowed, “I am Elsa and Anna and we are so so happy!!!!” Little 16 month old Johnny looked up at me with a drooly grin and chortled, “aha!!!!”

They ran, they jumped, they picked up leaves, they screamed at the pure pleasure of jumping into puddles.

I was happy that they were happy, but to be honest, I was also tired. Nonni here has been fighting off a strangely lingering throat infection, and sleep has been eluding me. So as we walked down the driveway and splashed in every puddle, there was a piece of me that kept thinking, “Is it time to go in? Is it time for nap?”

I wanted to lie down.

Then I remembered those long, long days of my children’s past. I remembered the yearning I felt for bedtime.

I stood there, watching the kids play. And I looked up at that sky and watched those swirling, dying leaves.

And it occurred to me that I don’t have as many days to wish away as I did all those years ago. How many more fall days do I have left out there? How many times will I stand in the glorious sunshine watching two beautiful, happy, beloved children dancing with joy in front of me?

I pulled in a breath, smelling the wood smoke of my neighbor’s chimney, the wet, earthy musk of the decaying leaves, the sharp pungency of the pine trees around us. I looked at the kids, both jumping in the mud, both grinning, sharing a moment of pure bliss with each other.

Life is short. And every year it gets shorter.

If one of my days stretches out and takes forever to pass, well, that can only be a good thing. Now I’m old enough to know that a day like this is a blessing unsought.

Let all of my life slow itself down and take its time to pass.

And may I have many more days to simply stand there, motionless, watching beautiful children at play.

slow time

Heaven is a puddle on a sunny fall day.

Who Am I Kidding?


As a slightly past middle aged woman, I know what it is to deal with insomnia. Sometimes I lie down at 9 pm and I’m asleep at 9:03. Of course, on nights like that one I wake up at 10:30, 11:03, 1:35 and 3:40 before getting up at 6:30.

But there are other nights where I toss and turn from 10 to 2 and finally fall asleep at 3, only to wake up at 6 with a headache.

So why in the world would I even consider sleeping with not only my aging husband of 40 years, but also our two dogs?

Why?

It. Makes. No. Sense.

This is my typical night, just so that you understand the pressures at work here.

I go to bed. Paul is in the living room, watching sports. The dogs, Lennie and Bentley, are beside him on the couch. I settle into my bed, ice pack in place on my lower back. I sigh. I settle back. I curl up on my left side.

And I hear the inevitable “ticky-ticky-tick” of Lennie’s claws as he comes down the hall. I lie still on my pillow. Lennie jumps nimbly onto the bed and settles himself into a tight curl somewhere around my legs. I fall asleep to the sound of Lennie’s gentle, rhythmic breathing.

I come awake again around midnight. The covers are now tight around me, and my butt is exposed to the cool night air. I can tell, as I roll over, that Paul has come to bed and is sound asleep beside me. Lennie is still at my feet, on top of the covers.

But Bentley is stretched out to his full length on top of the covers between Paul and I. He is happily dreaming and is totally at peace.

I roll onto my right side, slightly annoyed that I am lacking coverage on my chilly old bottom. I try to pull up the blankets, but find that I am thwarted by the two dogs who are snoring on top of the quilt.

“OK”, I think, “This is ridiculous. I need to sleep. I need my blankets. I need my bed.” I get up, thinking that I will go to the bathroom and then come back to dislodge the hounds and reestablish my human superiority.

I walk back to the bed, my phone in my hand for light. I see Lennie, curled up and sleeping like a baby at the foot of the bed.

Lennie

Gah! Why are you waking me up???

I decide that he’s OK. I mean, he’s only at the foot of the bed. He isn’t really impacting my sleep. Much.

So I turn to the other guy. To the soft, sweet, silky puppy who insists on sleeping so close to me that we seem to be fusing at the spine.

“You need to move!”, I hiss, as I slip back under the covers. “I am really REALLY tired!”

I push him off of me.

He softly and silently turns into everyone’s favorite stuffed animal. He melts. He becomes totally inert. He shloops himself onto my chest.

Benney

“Ugh”, I whisper. “Get OFF!”

He snuggles just a tiny bit closer. He lifts his soft, silky snout up toward my cheek. He lays his head against mine.

“Sfhshshsfsh” he breathes into my ear.

I try to resist. I do. I straighten my spine. He straightens his and continues to breathe into my ear.

I want to be strong. I want to move him off of the bed and onto the floor. I mean, seriously! What kind of badass woman lets herself be pushed around by a puppy?

I wait for just a second. The warm, soft fur lying against my neck feels good. The gently repetitive breathing on my cheek is oddly reassuring.

“I’ll get you guys off in a minute.” I tell myself.

Then I curl onto my side, feeling Lennie’s warmth against my feet. I sigh, and pull the covers up over my shoulders. As I do, I realize that Bentley is under those covers, his softly sleepy head resting next to mine on the pillow.

We all fall asleep.

I’m a soft touch. I’m a jerk. I’m an aging old lady who loves waking up in the middle of the night with both arms around a warm little body.

Yeesh.

Who am I kidding?

I’d rather sleep with these snoring, shedding, gassy little guys than without them. And that’s the honest truth.

Levels of Comfort


13690800_10153573793405899_2680432718176470304_n

I am getting older. I am a woman, as they say, “of a certain age.”

What this means is that my body parts are no longer the same as they were in 1970. Gentlemen, if there are any of you reading this, you might want to look away. For this is a story of how we older ladies seek comfort.

Let me start by remembering the years when I was a working woman. I used to have an entire wardrobe of “work clothes” to choose from. These items were crisp, professional, fitted, buttoned and up to date.

They were fine, but they weren’t relaxation clothes. Back then, I also had an entire wardrobe of flannel shirts, loose jeans and soft sweatshirts. Comfort and style were opposite goals.

Then I got older. I became a teacher in a school that valued personal choice over style. I created a closet full of “comfy but professional” skirts, pants, sweaters, vests and blouses. I wore those from Mon-Friday. On the weekends I was back to my jeans and flannels.

And time went on. I became a cranky old teacher. Then I became a retired old teacher.

Now?

Now I am Nonni-in-charge. Now I can go from Sunday to Sunday without ever actually leaving my house.

I no longer have professional, crisp, stylish clothes. Now I have skinny jeans, black jeans, leggings and a range of loose fitting t shirts and sweatshirts. Now I have comfy clothes and “I don’t give a f*” clothes.

Now, my dear ones, now it all comes down to the bra.

Yup.

The girls, as I like to call them, are no longer the perky little lasses that I used to put into sleek sweaters. Now they are a couple of droopy old broads who just want to skip over breakfast and get straight to happy hour.

So now my “formal” vs “informal” wardrobe is ALL about the bra.

I’ll explain what I mean.

If its a normal day, and I’m going to be here in the living room with Johnny and Ellie, I put on my “comfy” bra. This little item is made of cloth. It has NO elastic at any point in it’s design. It holds the girls up….sort of….but it doesn’t put any stress on anyone. It just sort of holds everybody in place. It’s sweet. It never pinches.

I love this bra.

But if I know that the mom and dad of one of my very favorite toddlers will be coming to drop her off and pick her up?…… Well, that’s a day when Nonni puts on a comfy bra with a couple of pads inside. This bra is comfy, but not as comfy as the one above. It sort of pretends that the ladies are still fine upstanding citizens. It makes the sweater look like it belongs on a wise woman, instead of a creepy old derelict homeless lady.

The comfy but padded bra is my “semi-formal” look.

But what do I do, as a stay at home Nonni, when I am going to be visited by an elegant, sophisticated, incredibly intelligent woman of the previous generation? What do I do if this woman is one of my most admired ladies, and if she is coming to see her great grand children?

Well.

I can’t exactly put on my best silk sweater: I will have goldfish crackers regurgitated on me at some point today. I can’t wear a skirt or a dress, because I will no doubt find myself on my hands and knees picking up marker caps before the puppy can eat them.

I can’t dress up like a professional.

But I CAN wear an actual bra.

Not a soft cup, comfort providing, sports bra. Oh no.

When I know that I must do my best to impress, I get out my favorite soft sweatshirt, my jeans leggings, and my best lacy cupped bra. I put that thing on, strapping the ladies in for a ride. “Girls,” I tell them, “We need to make a good impression!”

And I go through my day, perky old ladies on full display.

I feel so formal. So professional.

Tomorrow, when its just me and the kids?  Floppy ladies all the way.

 

Just a Ripple in Time


Girls at play

I was standing outside today, watching the kids play. It was a beautiful, cool fall day. The leaves were swirling around in the wind and the kids were running up and down the driveway. The smell of the air was musty, leafy, wet and so familiar.

I remembered walking through piles of fall leaves as a kid. I watched my grandchildren kicking the pine needles and leaves in front of themselves, and I remembered how the crumbly mix used to remind me of old cereal left in the bowl. I could feel myself back 50 years ago, walking through the neighborhood where I grew up.

As the kids raced by me, shrieking and howling and spinning with that special toddler mix of joy and unbounded energy, I realized that I was standing in Momma alert mode. You know what I mean? Johnny was running off to my right, and Ellie and Ella were off to my left. I stood with my feet apart, my hands clasped behind my back. I could survey the entire yard that way, keeping everyone safe and in my view, while still keeping my distance to let them play.

Ellie

There was, I swear, a little ripple in the air, and I suddenly realized that I had stood in that very same spot, so many times, watching different children run and play.

For a moment I almost felt dizzy. I looked hard to my right. Where were my little boys, my Matt and Tim, who used to ride bikes up and down this very same driveway? I turned to the left. Where was my baby girl, my Katie? Shouldn’t she be chasing her friend Jessica across the grass on this beautiful day?

I tilted my head back, looking through the branches of the pines at the bright, clean sky.

Of course my little ones weren’t there. They are grown now.

The shrieking, jumping, dancing little whirlwinds in front of me are Kate’s children, and Jessica’s.

The sky is the same. The grass is still my grass. My house stands right where it has stood for all these years. Some of the pines have come down, and there are newer, smaller trees. But the wind is the same, the smell is the same, the crushed brown mixture of cereal bowl leaves and needles is just the very same as it has been for all of my adult life.

I stand in the cool sun, my hands clasped behind my back. I close my eyes, just for a moment, standing perfectly still.

I hear them laughing and calling, I hear those playful voices. In this moment, I am not sure who it is I’m listening to.

 

Saving George


happy-spider-cartoonOh, brother.

In an effort to prevent my beloved granddaughter from sharing my ridiculous arachnophobia, I think I sort of went too far.

First of all, I hate spiders. I know, on an intellectual level, “spiders are good for the environment, they eat the bad bugs, they can’t hurt you” blah, blah, blah. Still, I wake up at least twice a month from the world’s most vivid dream that a HUGE BLACK HAIRY SPIDER IS ABOUT TO DROP FROM THE CEILING ONTO MY FACE!!!!!

I hate them.

But I am a good Nonni. I am a wise Nonni. I am an enlightened Nonni.

Yay me.

Last week, my sweet granddaughter Ellie looked up during breakfast and asked, “What is that scary scary thing on your ceiling, Nonni?”

It was a very small spider. As in, wicked small. Like the size of a sesame seed. It was black and had 8 cute and tiny legs. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to teach about the wonders of spiders. I figured if I did it right, it might just spare Ellie 45 years of night terrors in which a giant spider lands on her face.

“Oh,” I said with a benevolent smile. “That’s our kitchen spider. His name is….um….ah….George!”

“Hi, George!” Ellie chirped, before returning with serenity to her waffles and blueberries.

As for me, I kept an eye on ol’ George. He seemed pretty calm, just moving his way long the ceiling, without ever once giving me the idea that he might intend to pounce upon my actual face.

I was cool. I was calm. The kids and I have been smiling at and chatting with George for about a week now. All eight of his tiny legs have remained the same size, and he has never once made any effort to come off the ceiling.

Nice George. Good George.

Nonni was pretty impressed with her ability to stave off severe arachnophobia. Nonni was doing the hippy environmentalist yay-me dance all week.

But. This morning, while Nonni was trying to get a pot of espresso going, she heard this little tidbit:

“Oh, good morning, George!! You got really really big last night!”

Holy heart attack.

I snuck into the dining room, where I found Ellie smiling down sweetly at a HUGE, HUGE, H-U-Fucking-GE wolf spider on the floor under the dining room table.

To my credit, I said, “Oh, my. Oh, gee.” instead of “What the HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU????? THAT IS NOT GEORGE!!!!”

We paused for a moment. Ellie had a waffle bit on the end of her fork. Johnny had a blueberry in each hand. I had a spatula the size of Minnesota in my hand.

“Nonni”, Ellie looked at me with her beautiful innocent eyes. “Please save him!”

Heart pounding. Every horror movie since the dawn of movies flashing before my eyes.

I do NOT want to scare her! I don’t!

“Sure, honey. Let me try! I sure would love to save George’s wicked big Uncle….Tony…..”

I grabbed a juice glass and popped it over the giant spider on the floor. Said giant spider immediately hurled himself upside down against said glass. Every single inch of Nonni skin crawled.

Then I took a piece of sturdy but thin paper and slid it under the glass. Uncle Tony was writhing, but he was contained.

“Oh, look, Ellie!,” I cheered “I captured him!”

Only no I didn’t.

Uncle Tony got one horrifically articulated claw under the glass and pulled himself out from on top of the paper. In less than a nanosecond, I could envision his horrible bendy legs rushing over the side of the glass and right up my sleeve.

With a soprano shriek worthy of the Metropolitan Opera, I hurled the glass, the paper and old Uncle Tony out onto the floor. Then I backed up, sat on a chair with my hand on my chest, gasped and said, “Um….no, no I didn’t.”

At this point poor Uncle Tony was desperately trying to escape by rushing across the floor toward the wall. Unfortunately for him, he was pounced upon our intrepid/stupid puppy dog, Bentley, who tried to snuff the spider up his nose.

The horror of that thought propelled me out of my chair, cloth napkin in hand. I dropped the cloth onto the spider and stomped down with so much force it probably left him as nothing more than a stain.

Gagging, I scooped up the cloth, rolled it into my hand, shoved it into a plastic grocery bag and stuffed it down into the trash. Which I then tied into a knot.

I was gasping at that point. I was soaked in sweat.

I fell into a chair and looked up to see both Ellie and Johnny staring at me with huge brown eyes.

“Nonni, did you KILL him?” asked Ellie.

Gulp. “Yes. I’m sorry honey. Sometimes we try to save our spider friends, but it doesn’t work out.”

Ellie looked at me solemnly.

“Good.” She said. “He was creepy.”

She took another bite of waffle.