A while ago, a friend was over at my place, and while I was in the bathroom I heard a THWAP. My floors are tile, my walls are hard white plaster, and my apartment is about 250 square feet — everything echoes. The THWAP sounded much more violent than it probably was.
When I came out of the bathroom, my friend was tossing a paper towel into the garbage and holding her sandal in her hand. "What happened?" I asked.
"Oh, I just killed a spider for you," she said nonchalantly.
"WHAT?!" I said, making no attempt to hide the instant flare-up of anger. "Where?"
Baffled, she pointed at the side of the fridge. "It was just crawling up the fridge; it was pretty big."
"NO!!!" I felt the tears welling up behind my eyes. "You can't do that in my home! OK? Please don't ever do that again! I know it may sound crazy, but I don't kill spiders."
Wide-eyed, my friend apologized. I think she meant it. I also think I scared her. But I regret nothing.
While I know she was trying to be helpful and get rid of a creepy-crawly that people typically find "gross" or "icky," I have come to feel genuine fondness for the spiders in my home.
You see, for my entire life, my mom has taught me not to kill spiders.
As a kid, whenever I'd shriek with terror at a leggy black creature crawling up my wall and then go after it with a shoe or a book, my mom would stop me and say, "No! Gam si maau ["spiders" in Cantonese, more specifically little jumping spiders] are good luck! Squash them, you squash your luck!"
Instead, she'd nimbly catch it with her hands, or in a glass, and toss it out a window. If she couldn't catch it and it scurried off to hide in the safety of an unreachable corner or crevice, she'd say, "Oh well, it's just going home. You scared it. You're safe, little gam si..."
Mom has never had much patience for the average person, but she has always been drawn to underdogs. Doesn't matter if the underdog is a human, a possum, or a spider — Mom's heart bleeds for those who are bullied. It's in this way, arguably more than maybe any other way, that I am my mother's daughter.
"All creatures great and small," "bless the beasts and the children"; I hear her voice in a loop in my head when it comes to such things, and I tend to follow suit.
(My only exception is cockroaches. They are assholes. IT'S EITHER THEM OR ME.)
Once, my dad smashed a spider with a slipper in our living room, and upon seeing the spider's crushed remains, Mom became visibly angry, "Oh, why do you have to kill?! Just because you can? It wasn't hurting you. Next time, tell me, and I'll put it outside if you hate it so much. It was just going on its way. So pointless to kill..."
And while I'll fully admit that I killed spiders after that point, in recent years, I have not killed a single spider on purpose. While sometimes they still give me chills, and the thought of one crawling on me in my sleep makes me itch all over, I really do like having them in my home now.
While trying to snap a picture of my kitchen gam si maau, I think I scared "her," and she kept jumping up and down. I was covered in goosebumps but also kept saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm just trying to get a pretty picture of you!"
For the record, I have not named my spiders. That would be lunacy. I'm sure spider names are unpronounceable to humans. I don't want to confuse them.
And I do realize that I live in an apartment where I only see a few tiny black spiders hopping around my desk and kitchen sink (I think I have three regulars) — no truly intimidating spiders. I don't have those toddler-sized spiders you see people paying ransoms to in Australia, or even the baby-fist-sized ones I saw in Texas. And if I had an actual infestation (like I did with the cockroaches in Hawai‘i), I don't know what I'd do. I don't claim to be the perfect "spider advocate"; I just know that the ones I have are doing no harm to me, so why do harm to them?
Maybe I've gotten my sentimental streams crossed somewhere, but whenever I see my house spiders, I think of my mom, good luck, gam si maau, and how awful it would be if I was a content little spider off to snack on a delicious fruit fly or something, and THWAP — lights out forever.
Yes, I know full well that I'm giving emotional aptitude to a creature that likely does not have such. But I don't care. The spiders in my home do a great job of controlling the flies, they're timid as hell, and, frankly, seeing them makes me happy.
And, no, my home is not a mess of spiderwebs. I clean all the time, in all the nooks and crannies, and to be honest, I've found almost none. Maybe little black jumping spiders don't build webs? Does somebody know the answer to this?
So there's a little peek into what it's like to be me. Eight legs good, two legs... We'll see. (FOUR LEGS? Let's be best friends forever!)
Sometimes we find joy in the most unlikely places.
What creepy-crawlies do you have a soft spot for? Which spiders, pests, bugs, rodents, whatever, do you have an "unusual" affection for? Is it tied to superstition? Belief? Or do you just LIKE them?
Tell us! (And by us I mean me and my spiders.)