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I grew up in a house with people who loved living things.  I came to love insects on my own but my mother didn’t make it easy.

When I was a child I’d howl, “Mom, there’s a spider in my bedroom!!!!!” and she’d come in and stomp it with her slipper.  These events always seemed to involve terry-cloth slides; in white, or light blue.  Then I’d travel to Florida and scream, “AH!!!  What’s that thing in the living room?” and 80-year-old Aunt Irma  would trot in and stomp a palmetto bug with her slipper.  The palmettos were sizable, and crunchy.

My grandma would stomp on bugs and even my dad; I got all the way to adolescence thinking I had the bug thing handled–you know, like people with chauffeurs think they have the driving thing handled.  Then one day when I was maybe 8 I hollered, “Mommmmm!! There’s a spider in the bathroom!!!”, all nonchalant but with some emphasis; I have a problem that requires your immediate attention, you might want to get in here but she appeared in the doorway looking doubtful and what happened next was unexpected and left me gaping and embarrassed.

“Katie”, she said, “that’s the bathroom spider”.  Then she wandered off.

I hadn’t even reached adolescence, but I was alone with a live spider in a small bathroom in a midwestern town in Wisconsin, and I got it, I was on my own.

Did I kill it?  I did not.  I suppose I stepped over it, shuddered and went on with my life, but the game had changed and I had some decisions to make. Make them I did and by the time I was in my 20’s I was the sort of person who scooped bugs off the floor of my home and took them outside.  Then I yelled at other people for killing spiders in their homes and when I reached my 30’s I began to talk to bugs.

“I’ll give you a week,” I told the ants.  “Then, out comes the poison.”

The ants were little red ones, that came in the back door every spring and wound their tiny way past the chest, along the kitchen island, around the corner and across the floor where they disappeared underneath the stove.  They came back out, was the thing, and I figured that really they were just helping to move out the crumbs that were far underneath the appliances, past where I could reach with a broom.  Every year, they were gone within a week.

Was I getting through to them, or was it a coincidence?  I couldn’t know for certain, but in time I would have better proof.

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