We have a pet. His name is Terrance. He lives in a terrarium between a bookshelf and a plant stand and he is a tarantula.
Terrance came to us one fall afternoon during his migration season. We were driving to the county park on a road that runs adjacent to a little creek. The first cool Californian October days are not unlike the first sunny East Coast spring days: folks stumble outside, dazed from a long stretch of indoor imprisonment, and breathe deeply of the sweet, temperate oxygen. On days like these, I would be happy to simply stand on my front porch and beam. This, however, does not jibe with the general momentum of toddlers, and so we as a family packed up and headed for the only place well-suited for sliding, running, climbing, and generall exercising all kinds of gross motor skills.
Terrance, meanwhile, was making his way to the creek, jay-walking as it were, perhaps in search of water and perhaps in search of a mate. We nearly squashed him flat, and for a brief, panicked moment, we thought we had. Pulling over promptly to do some investigative work, we soon learned that Terrance was alive and well. I found an empty tupperware in the backseat (because, apparently, there are a few bonuses to having a messy car) and A scooped up the startled spider.
It has been living in our living room ever since, and I have learned a few lessons thanks to Terrance’s presence:
1. Not everybody, the author included, is terribly fond of spiders. There is a primitive ‘ick’ factor when they move, unfurling their giant, furry, creepy,icky, crawly legs and the very motion of walking tends to send goosebumps through any witness’ spine. Tarantulas are especially guilty of instilling a certain kind of terror in the humans that stumble upon them. For starters, they’re huge. This ain't no Daddy Long Leg. And yet. This is not the lesson. What I’ve learned from this experiment in tolerance is that I’m willing to sacrifice quite a bit in order to encourage my son’s curiosity in the world around him. Yes, friends tend to go rather pale when they ask, “does anything actually live in there?” and are thence introduced to Terrance. No, I am not a fan of adding, “pick up ten crickets” to my list of errands. Yes, I check and double-check that the lid of that terrarium is on tightly before heading upstairs to bed. But watching my son learn about habitats, and watching him gingerly hold the complete exoskeleton of what used to serve as the body of his beloved pet, and watching his sheer excitement at catching Terrance in the act of eating a cricket, well, these moments have won me over. Curiosity is a fire I’d like to stoke.
2. Tarantulas actually make for good pets. We can leave town without worrying about who’s going to feed the spider. And we certainly needn’t worry about Terrance making a mess on the carpet or otherwise destroying our furniture and belongings. A has been adamant about not getting a dog because, he says, it’s already hard enough planning a backpacking trip. I like to pretend that this breaks my heart, but he’s totally right. Terrance never gives me those puppy dog eyes when I leave the house and he most certainly never begs for kitchen scraps. From what we’ve read, tarantulas actually prefer small, enclosed spaces. So it’s kind of like we’re doing him a favor?
3. I think I’m ready for a daughter. Boys are fucking awesome, but a pink sparkly ballerina princess motif might be a nice relief from bulldozers and wrestling and spiders.
In closing: thank you, Terrance, for acting as an involuntary teacher for my family and me. Maybe next year we’ll set you free so you can finish tracking down that mate. Until then, please stay in your little cave when company comes. And please wait to molt until the boys and I get home from buying your crickets so that we can continue to be more engaged than repulsed by you and so that I can continue to tolerate your creepy crawly presence in my living room. Thanks, Terrance! You're the best!