Spider Webs and Memories

There is a large spider in the window beside my front door. She has constructed a greatly intricate web across the window pane just to the left of the door. Needless to say, when I’ve had to go outside, I’ve either used the back door, or stepped well to the right side of the front door, giving the spider a large berth.

I have a very rational fear of spiders. Ever since I was told that “the average human swallows three spiders in their sleep every year,” I’ve been afraid of them.* The meme’s you see on social media outlets regarding a fear of spiders were written about me. I actually HAVE done 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in two minutes after stepping into a spider’s web, and the thought of using a flame thrower to destroy a spider on the living room floor originated with me.

In the interest of avoiding an insurance claim, an exterminator visits my home every month. Every month! He sprays every crevice and cranny on every floor. The first time he stopped by, he saw a large spider, similar to the one I have this year, on the back porch and assured me that he would get rid of it, too. I stopped him! That spider would remain there until the cold winter would end his life naturally.

When my children were young, I read aloud to them the delightful children’s book “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. It was the first of many that we would read together. While we only read it once, it would affect many things in our lives, including how we deal with spiders that create such detailed webs where we can safely enjoy their beauty.

Through many years, my sons and I have admired the handiwork of these creatures. We’ve watched moths, flies, and gnats land perilously in the webs, only to be surrounded quickly with more webbing so that the spider could end their life painlessly and gain nourishment from the insects. We’ve watched them spinning the web with perfectly straight lines, magically spaced with the exact same distance between each row. We’ve stood for hours in the doorway, safely inside, watching these mysterious arachnids work to create a web. It was a joy to get up in the morning and see it dripping with dew drops in the sunlight. Beautiful!

No, the spiders outside of my home live completely free from human harm. Unlike their indoor neighbors, they have no reason to fear my wrath, or even a heavy shoe, machete, gun, flame thrower, or exterminator. They live in peace.

My sons no longer live at my home. Both are serving our nation in faraway places. I wonder if, somehow, they might find a spider, at a safe distance, and watch her skillfully work to construct a web just as I watched the one here.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can evoke such memories. Little things – like spiders.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*For the record, the average human does NOT swallow three spiders while sleeping. Not every year, not ever! This is a lie! A myth!!

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The Scent of Memories

I’d know that smell anywhere. It wafted across the breeze when I stepped outside to walk to the mailbox this afternoon. A flood of memories came back to me. Suddenly, I was riding in my parents’ old Corvair down a country road in early summer. The fragrance of honeysuckle was as thick in the air as the humidity.

In those days, we still rode in cars without seatbelts, had the windows down for air conditioning (unless you were wealthy enough to own a car that had air conditioning), and stuck your arm out the window to pick wildflowers along country lanes (no, dinosaurs did not roam the earth). How well I remember grabbing the honeysuckle vine, pulling the end off of the flowers, and tasting the sweet drops of nectar. Oh, what a flood of memories.

In addition to the honeysuckle vines that have sprung up in my yard (that my husband always tries to kill – farmers don’t like them), I have some peonies, too. The peonies always remind me of bath salts that my mama used when I was young. I loved the smell of my skin after a sweet bath when I was a little girl. I remember curling up in mama’s arms and she would tell me how good I smelled.  Later she would rock my sister to sleep as she sang “How Great Thou Art.” My mama smelled so pretty and sang so beautifully.

In the backyard stands a great Southern magnolia tree. I really don’t think there’s a home in the south that is more than 10 years old that doesn’t have a magnolia tree in the yard. Each summer I wait patiently for this one to bloom just so I can take in the fragrance. Between the size of the flower and the sweet odor, this is surely the most magnificent of trees. When I was a poor college student, I often used a pouch of magnolia potpourri to freshen my car, or at least take away the smell of fast food bags and sweaty clothes. There are too many memories there to count.

I also have some rose bushes scattered around the yard.  They carry me to a time at my paternal grandmother’s house when I was a young girl. She had a lovely rose bush along the rock wall around her driveway. It was larger than any I’ve seen since and smelled heavenly. I rarely got to visit her during the summer, only at the holidays, so smelling the roses was a treat. I didn’t realize that then, but I’m so thankful for mine now. I have other roses in my yard, but they are various hybrids that have beautiful flowers, fewer thorns, and a greatly reduced fragrance. There is just nothing like the smell of an old-fashioned rose.

Some health matters have confined me to my home for a few days. It was nice to get outdoors today to listen to the mockingbirds, a chickadee, a distant dog barking; to watch my dogs run around the hay field; to feel the pleasant breeze blowing across my arms; and to walk around the yard to smell the flowers.  What memories they bring!

 

~Temerity Dowell

Thanks for the Memories

Thanksgiving is a two-day long celebration for my family. Due to conflicts with some of my siblings’ in-laws, we decided many years ago to celebrate Thanksgiving for our extended family on Friday rather than Thursday. This allows me to get to prepare a special meal for my own family on Thursday. We have often invited guests who have no local family to join us for this special day. This year was no different.

As I began preparing some foods Wednesday evening, memories of past holidays flooded my mind and my kitchen. I made my paternal grandmother’s ambrosia recipe and thought about the wonderful times I sat at her table. That woman was the quintessential southern cook! That table now sits in my dining room, bequeathed to me when she passed away many years ago. Many family members wanted that table, already a prized antique, but she had written in her will that it was to go only to me. She loved me.

I also made a delicious seven-layer salad, another of my grandmother’s recipes, but one that had been given to me by an aunt. She had lovingly hand-written this, and many other, recipes to give me when my husband and I married. She wanted to make sure I knew how to cook for him and our future children. My favorite cookbook is a photo album in which I have assembled many such recipes from our family. Each time I open it, I recall a time when I made this dish or that one, what the situation was when I prepared it, and who enjoyed it with us.

When it came time to stuff the turkey, I pulled my maternal grandmother’s recipe out of that cookbook and made some of the yummiest stuffing in the south. Just the right combination of dried bread, butter, eggs, poultry seasoning, sage, and broth works every time. What’s odd about this recipe is that there are few measurements involved. The trick is in knowing the taste and sampling it to see if you get it just right. Because I have known that taste for a very long time, I never miss. I hope I can share this with future generations in my family so that they can enjoy it, too.

My sister had brought her family with her to my house on Thursday, and we had some friends here also. There were five teenaged through early 20-something young men in my home, reducing the mental age of the two adult men to roughly 16 years old. This led to a boisterous day filled with showing off their various shotguns, rifles, and handguns, target shooting, and some hunting (they were just too loud and scared off all the deer). Of course, we recalled the time that one of my nephew’s had climbed on my older son’s back and then fallen through the drywall upstairs. We laughed as we regaled how we had had to fix this huge hole quickly since my husband’s family was visiting the next day.

Friday was at my mom and dad’s home with the rest of our extended family. After dinner, my niece and I sat down to work on wedding plans together. She and her fiancé are getting married in the spring, so we had to pick colors and flowers. After a few minutes, my mom pulled her aside quietly. A few minutes later, she called for me to join them. She told me that my niece wanted to try on my wedding dress.

I was shocked! I thought my dress had been destroyed in a house fire over twenty years ago. I ran upstairs and there it was. I vividly remembered the emotions we had experienced when my mother’s home had burned. One of my nephews was still an infant, and had been upstairs napping only a few minutes before the electrical fire began. Because my brother was a member of the local volunteer fire department, he was allowed to go into the house once the fire was under control and bring out items of sentimental value. I had not seen him bring out my dress.

While my niece looked stunning in that dress, it’s not the dress for her. But what a joy it was to see her wearing it and recalling memories from the last time it was worn. I love that dress, puffy sleeves, bow on the butt, and all. Tears flowed as I looked at that beautiful, yet dated, dress. I rocked that puffy sleeve even better than Lady Diana Spencer had when she was married.

Later in the evening, the girls in our family gathered around the table to plan our mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party. My mom shared the story of how they had traveled across half the country to meet each other’s parents and for my dad to ask for my mom’s hand in marriage. My grandfather had refused! It really is such a sweet story, and one that I had not heard in many years. I’m looking forward to planning this event for them – every single detail.

This Thanksgiving and holiday season, I’m so thankful for the memories. Even the bad ones serve to remind me how fortunate we’ve been in the long run. But the good ones remind me how very blessed we are and are like sweet nectar to the soul. Thanks, God, for the memories.

 

~Temerity Dowell