Monday, February 11, 2013

March, 2003

There was this one time, when I was 13 or 14, and my grandparents on my mothers side came to visit us while we were living in Perth, Australia. They arrived on what turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the year- it was 40 degrees plus for 5 days straight- and while it was a shock for them coming from a crisp Vancouver March, it was hard on us too. Luckily, we had a swimming pool in our backyard, a big unheated blue rectangle, surrounded by palm trees and green bushes and a hammock on two sides, and a view of our neighbours backyard on the other side. There was also a tin-roofed shelter type thing, with a large table and chairs under it, and it was there that we often ate lunch or snacks after being in the water.
Because being in the water was the only relief we could get. The house didn't have air-conditioning or heating (quite common in older houses in Australia), and so the heat made being inside unbearable. One memory I have is of my mother hanging bed sheets outside the back of the house to dry (because who needs a clothes dryer when you have the sun, I guess), and running in between the sheets just to feel the cool whisper of the damp cloth on my hot bare skin. It was on the same side of the house as the drying rack that I finally caught one of the small black lizards that I had been trying to capture since arriving. They were tiny, cute, and oh so fast. After showing it to every member of my family, I finally let it go, because I didn't know what to feed it, and we all liked having lizards in and around the house because they ate the spiders.

Once, in the winter when it was cooler, I woke up to hear a splashing in the pool, my bedroom window looking directly out to it. I went out my sliding glass door, and saw a rat that had fallen in and couldn't get out. I got my mother, and she called my father, and he said to push it under with the net skimmer and drown it. I think I started crying, and my mom told my dad not to be so callous, and if he wanted to drown it he would have to do it himself because she refused. All this time the rat was swimming, and getting slower and slower, and I finally grabbed the net and scooped it out. Then I dumped it over the neighbours fence, where it lay still, not moving. I ran to the kitchen and cut a chunk of cheese, and dropped it beside the small wet form. I spent maybe 1/2 hour watching over it, willing it to live and run away, before the sun got too hot and I had to go inside. Later that afternoon I checked again and the rat was gone, though the piece of cheese remained, covered in ants.

After that hottest weekend, we took my grandparents out to the country for a weekend. We stayed in a converted school house in the middle of a dry and dusty farm, with a few old eucalyptus trees for shade. Red dirt got into everything. I can't remember what we did, except for once us kids were loaded onto the back of a "ute" (basically a pick-up truck) in the morning, and we drove around with the farmer feeding his sheep. On one of our stops we saw the skeleton of a sheep that had died, and when no one was looking I grabbed the jaw bone (with teeth) and brought it with me. When we got back to the schoolhouse I showed it to my mom, and asked if I could keep it if I cleaned it. She said yes, so I put the bone in a pot and poured boiling water over it to "sterilize" it. I don't think it did the trick, and besides, after a while of sitting in the hot water a smell started to arise that smelt like cooking meat. That's when I dumped out the water and left the bone outside in the sun to dry. I ended up keeping it anyway, and I still have it today sitting on my bookshelf.

One morning in the schoolhouse, I got up early and went into the common area to read a book. I took a seat in the comfiest old armchair, and to my shock and surprise a giant hairy spider the size of my outspread hand ran out from under my bum and disappeared under the chair. I was too sleepy to scream, but instead I jumped up and called for my grandfather, who was making coffee. He and my mother came over, and when I told them about the size of the spider, we all started looking for it- in the chair cushions, under the chair, around the chair. We thought that it would have been impossible for something that size to hide for long, and after a while of not finding it I think we all started to think that maybe I had seen something else, or been confused, or exaggerating. I started to think that maybe I had still been dreaming.
However, eventually my grandfather tipped the chair over and on to its side. And there it was- clinging upside down to the chair springs, front legs waving at us menacingly, was the spider- bigger and hairier than any of us had ever seen before. It wasn't fat like a tarantula; rather, it's legs were thinner and longer and more "muscular" looking. My grandfather killed it with a broom, and when we showed the body to our host out of curiosity, he said that it was a wolf spider, and poisonous, though not deadly so.

1 comment:

  1. Can't believe it was almost 10 years ago this happened. Remember all those events so clearly. That was a special year for us.....Thanks for the memories. Love you!