I’ve always been fascinated by spiders. Not that I want them in my house or anything, although for a while I did entertain the thought of a pet tarantula in college until the roommate nixed the idea. I’ve just always thought they were kinda cool, and misunderstood by a large portion of our society. They keep our gardens free of pests, their silk is ounce for ounce stronger than steel, and scientists are researching the properties of their venom for use in green insecticides. Not to mention that they are among the best climbers on the planet! So you can imagine my delight when I noticed this colorful addition to our yard a few weeks ago.
I have a lot of funny childhood memories about Garden Spiders such as this one – although we used to call them “Writing Spiders,” because of the zig-zagging strings of silk across the center of their webs. The zipper-like pattern is actually called stabilimentum, and the function of it is not entirely known. Many entomologists have hypothesized that it reflects light in such a way that attracts more visitors to the web, both edible visitors as well as optimistic males of the same species.
But my Maw Maw had a different theory. She always maintained that a writing spider existed purely to invoke bad luck upon anyone who was unfortunate enough to have the spider pen their name in its web. Who knows whether or not she really believed that old wive’s tale, but apparently my dad used to torture her endlessly by finding them in her garden and shouting (and spelling) her name loud enough that every spider for miles around could hear.
I was far too much of a nature dork as a child to fall for such urban legends, but nevertheless writing spiders were always kind of a running joke with my family. It still makes me giggle when I picture all the times I would run inside the house and tell my dad, “It’s writing your name, I can see the ‘D’!” to which his response was always to dramatically fall prostrate on the ground, presumably stricken by the writing spider’s “curse.”
Unfortunately for us my Maw Maw isn’t around to watch C interact with these mesmerizing creatures, but I like to picture her looking down from heaven at us tossing aphids and stinkbugs (or more recently, caterpillars, seen here) into our favorite arachnid’s web, just shaking her head. And judging from my dad’s faux fear reaction when I told him that C whispered “Paw Paw” to our 8-legged friend, I can tell that the memories she left us with are deeply woven into our family in such ways that won’t be so easily forgotten.
What childhood memories have been special for your family throughout the years?