Thursday, April 04, 2019

First Spider on the Ceiling Day

You'd think the spiders would move in when it got cold outside. Maybe they do, maybe they're just really sneaky about it, but I don't really see them around in the winter. I don't see them until First Spider on the Ceiling Day.

It's exactly what it sounds like: it's the day, every year, usually sometime in March or April, after the temperatures have crawled above zero and held for about a week, that I see the first spring spider in my house. It is always, always on the ceiling of either my kitchen or my living room.

(But of course, First Spider on the Ceiling of Either My Kitchen or My Living Room Day is kind of a mouthful.)

Guess what yesterday was?

I always spend the days immediately after First Spider on the Ceiling Day with my head tipped back, anxiously scanning the room for the Second Spider on the Ceiling. There's never only a First Spider.

(Otherwise the day would be called, just, Spider on the Ceiling Day.)

This is kind of an appropriate week for the First Spider. It fits.

A few days ago, I was home alone with Sully and Scarlett. I was in the bathroom giving Scarlett a shower, Sully was playing LEGO in his bedroom, and I heard the back door open. It's a loud door; our house shifts in the winter so the door hangs a little crooked and you have to throw your hip into it to get it open. It scrapes on the floor. You can't quietly open that door.

I heard rustling and footsteps and thought, huh, Barclay's home a little earlier than I thought he'd be.

I wrapped Scarlett in her towel and carried her into her bedroom. I called to Sully, "Is Dad home?"


I nodded to myself, talking quietly to Scarlett about what we were going to do that day as I dried her off and picked out her pants and shirt.

Barclay wasn't there when I came into the kitchen a few minutes later. "Barclay?" The living room was empty too. I peeked around the corner. The back door was wide open. "Barclay?" Down the stairs. Out the door. "Barclay? Where are you?"

That was when I noticed the car wasn't parked outside. Which meant that either Barclay wasn't home yet, or that he'd come home, opened the back door, and left again—which, why?

Another thought crossed my mind then: maybe Barclay hadn't opened the back door at all.


Sully came out of his room, still holding the LEGO car he'd been building. "Yeah?"

"Did you open the door?"

He shook his head. "Dad did."

"Did you see Dad?"

"No. I was in my room." He held up his car. "I just heared him open the door."

So there I was, standing in the kitchen, staring at the wide open back door and thinking, Someone opened the door. Someone has been here. Or, worse, Someone is still here. In the basement.

Reading this back to myself, I think of every scary movie I've ever seen, where a woman is just standing there, waiting, while her soon-to-be murderer advances toward her and the audience thinks at her, Run. Why don't you run away? I think some people think that the filmmaker does it to build tension, but I think they actually do it because it's realistic.

I was frozen, staring at the open door directly at the top of the basement steps. Straining to listen.

Scarlett chose that moment to start crying. Wailing. She was sick, poor kid, and she wanted her blanket. She wanted her blanket more than anything else in the world, and the more I stood there not getting her blanket, the harder she cried. But the blanket was in her bedroom and, honestly, I wasn't going further into the house to get a blanket. I picked her up and tried to comfort her, grabbing my phone off the table. I called Barclay. He didn't answer. I called him again. He picked up on the fourth ring.

"WHERE ARE YOU?" I hissed.

"Is something wrong?"


"Wait, what?"


Scarlett was crying into my shoulder and Sullivan was staring at me with dinner plate eyes and I was suddenly thinking that I should maybe, you know, get out of the house. But my feet stayed planted in the kitchen floor like I was a big old tree.

Then Sully said, matter-of-factly, "Mom, no one's in the house."


"I opened the back door."

"You said Dad opened the back door."

"No," he was shaking his head, still clutching the LEGO car with both hands. "I heared Dad open the car door. Outside. So I opened the back door to let him into the house. But then he didn't come into the house so I went back to my bedroom."

So that was what had happened, and everything was fine, and Barclay arrived a few minutes later to no emergency at all and I felt dumb for overreacting and freaking everybody out and also dumb for not getting the kids out of the house when I legitimately thought someone was in the basement and ever since, even though I know there was no one in the basement, no one in the house at all, I can't help but jump a little when I'm home alone and hear a creak.

And now I'm checking the ceiling for spiders.