Negotiating with Spiders
An excerpt from Mama, Mama, Only Mama
I had never lived completely on my own before, without a boyfriend, husband, or roommate. Yes, technically I wasn’t “alone,” as someone pointed out once—I had the children five days a week, but toddlers are more like badly behaved pets than life partners or even roommates. I had to learn to fully rely on myself and, let’s be honest, finally grow all the way up. I was a mother of two small people. I had already been the one to do all the diapering and feeding of the children, but now I had to mow the lawn, take out the garbage, and all the other tasks that heretofore had fallen to my ex-husband.
The first heavy snowfall found me unprepared. Luckily, my house’s previous owner left an old metal shovel with a slightly bent scoop in the garage. I had no heavy gloves, so I wore my brand-new orange oven mitts as I cleared the driveway. When my car refused to start on Christmas Eve, I jumped the battery myself while wearing high heels and my church dress.
One night after the children were asleep, I was watching television in bed when the house suddenly went dark. It was either from a rapist/ murderer who cut the power to aid in his attack, or the space heater had tripped the circuit breaker yet again. In the quiet blackness, it was really a toss-up which felt more likely. I owned several flashlights, but I had foolishly allowed the boys to play with them and I had no idea where they were. I crept downstairs using my cell phone as a flashlight, trying not to think of potential psycho killers waiting downstairs. It was up to me to protect the house, even if doing so scared me in small, foolish ways. After I flipped the breakers and restored the light, the adrenaline rush filled me with glee like a proud ten-year-old child.
I have been afraid of spiders for as long as I can remember. In fact, at my job interview I told my boss that I would happily pick up his dry cleaning, but that I would never under any circumstances take responsibility for killing/removing any bugs. But when the boys and I moved into our cheerful new house, I realized it would be inappropriate to expect a three-year-old child to man up and squish bugs for me. Our house was funky and hip and eighty-plus years old, and I had to admit that the spiders had established squatters’ rights to the place. Also, there were a whole lot more of them than there were of me, and if I angered them, they could swarm me in my sleep and also possibly eat the baby.
I made a deal with them: any spider smaller than a nickel would be allowed to stay unmolested. Spiders larger than a nickel but smaller than a quarter would be nervously relocated to the out-of-doors. But any spider larger than a quarter would be destroyed by any means necessary. High- heeled shoe. Vacuum cleaner. Napalm.
The spider contract worked out well for six years. Only twice did I find spiders larger than a quarter dangling over my bed waiting to kill me as I slept. (Probably by dropping into my open mouth, having babies inside me, and exploding out through my nasal cavity.) And technically I only killed one once, with a shoe. The other I vacuumed while standing on the bed, one arm extending the wand, drenched in cold sweat. It presumably lived and escaped to live a happy life somewhere else in the house neighborhood.
I was getting by as the sole defender of the house. In terms of potential intruders of the two-legged variety, various friends kept promising to give me a wooden baseball bat, and they kept forgetting. A friend, Herman, gave me a plastic Wiffle ball bat, which he found hysterical. He was lucky that it didn’t fit up either of his nostrils. For a long time, I had a large empty wine bottle under the bed—not the regular size, but the big-girl double capacity variety, along with a claw hammer with only one claw that the previous homeowner had left in the basement. But I had a secret weapon—my neighbors.
For the first time in my life, I knew the people not only on either side of my house, but directly across the street and on the diagonals as well. My next-door neighbor had a teenaged daughter who babysat. Across the street was a single father who played acoustic guitar on his front step. Yes, one neighbor’s cigar smoke occasionally wafted into my open windows, but I trusted that if someone came to kill us in the middle of the night, Gino would intercede or at least call the police. For the first time, I felt safe when I was alone. My neighborhood held me and the boys in the palm of its hand. And five years later, when Tiny Pants rode a two-wheeler without training wheels for the first time, yelling, “I’m only five years old!” at the top of his lungs, the nameless neighbors who had watched us walk to the park at the end of the street week after week stood up on their porches and cheered for Tiny.
When I decided to trust the universe to protect me, I stopped being afraid. I didn’t even mind being home alone at night when the children were at their father’s. As long as the spiders were smaller than a quarter, obviously.
I’m so excited to bring you guys this preview of our contributor, Lara’s, new book!!
It’s a fantastic read that I know you’re going to both appreciate and love…
About Mama, Mama, Only Mama:
A Single Mom Shares Her Inspiring and Funny Tales of Parenting, Full of Love, Advice, and Humor
Being a single mother means relaxing your cleanliness standards. A lot. Being a single mother means accepting sleep deprivation as a natural state. Being a single mother means hauling a toddler, a baby, and a diaper bag while wearing high heels and a cute skirt, because you never know when you’ll meet someone. Being a single mother means finding out you are stronger than you ever knew was possible.
Since birth, Lara Lillibridge’s children wanted, “Mama, Mama, only Mama!” whether they were tired or just woke up from a nap—whether they were starving or had just finished a bowl of goldfish crackers. Over ten years later, not much has changed. Between hilarious episodes and candid stories, Lillibridge offers the bits of advice and enlightenment she’s gained along the way and never fails to commiserate on the many challenges that come with raising children in a non-nuclear family. This creative, touching memoir will resonate with single moms everywhere, whether solo parenting is new territory or well-trodden ground for them.
Written in the style of a diary with blogs, articles and recipes tucked between the pages, Mama, Mama, Only Mama follows Lillibridge and her two children, Big Pants and Tiny Pants, out of divorce, through six years of single parenting, and into the family blender with a quasi-stepfather called SigO.
Complete with highly useful recipes such as congealed s’more stew, recycled snack candy bars, instant oatmeal cookies and a fine chicken casserole that didn’t pass Tiny Pants’s “lick test,” Lillibridge grows into her role as mother, finds true love, and comes to terms with her ex-husband.
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