Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012



It wasn’t the “Mom” part—it was the preceding “uh.” It’s something he says when he has bad news. And in this case, there was a tone to his voice that was worrisome indeed. Then he added, “Don’t freak out or anything, ‘kay?”

This ranks right up there under THINGS YOU DON’T WANT YOUR CHILD TO SAY TO YOU. Even if said child is old enough to attend college and vote and fight in armies and legally drink. In fact, maybe especially if he’s that old.

I looked up from my computer and stared at him. In retrospect, I bet I know what my face looked like, because my dad used to give me that same blank stare whenever I dropped a bombshell on him. He’d look up from his reading, his face completely impassive, and then his eyes would go: Blink. And then: Blink.

I now know that those two blinks represent a sort of slip into Matrix mode, where time slows so much that hundreds of possible kinds of bad news flit through the brain like bullets that can be plucked out of the air, Neo-style.

Then he said, “It’s my laundry.”

At first I was relieved. Laundry! And then those bullets again: My son’s laundry…! My son’s laundry. Oh. And…oh. It could be pretty bad, after all.

And it was. At least, in a sort of curious, almost scientific way. Neither of which should ever be said about laundry.

Turned out he’d bought a new pair of shorts and worn them jogging. I know you’re supposed to wash new clothes before wearing them, and I bet he knows this too. But. He does, in fact, do his own laundry, so I am not about to rock that boat by offering helpful laundering suggestions. So he had dumped the shorts along with a shirt on the floor of his old room as if the room is a big empty laundry basket.

His “new” room is the entire basement, which he’s staked claim upon little by little, squatter-style, until he’s converted it into his own apartment that he takes over when he’s home from college along with the garage and the pantry. He tries to take over the kitchen too by marking it with his flip flops the way astronauts leave their footprints on the moon—and to be left there about as long—but my daughter and I throw them down the basement steps lest we get home one day and find the whole house littered with video games and cereal bowls with blue milk in the bottom and Dorito bags and a stray sock or two.

So sitting on top of the shorts (along with a shirt) in the middle of his upstairs room was—urk—a pile of ant eggs, along with some adults running around and apparently trying to bury them down in the pockets and folds of my son’s laundry.

I hesitated telling you this because I don’t want you to think I have bugs. I really don’t get ants in this house much. Used to see a few every spring when it rained, but since the exterminator who was clearly the Walter Mitty of exterminators—the one with a personal vendetta against bugs who I think fantasized that he was more terminator than exterminator—there’s been nothing but the occasional basement spider. Even the crickets we used to get every fall have been noticeably scarce. But there was no ant trail whatsoever and no sign of ants anywhere but in that one spot perched on top of the shorts.

How did that happen? We don’t know. We’ve been Googling ants to see if it’s possible that a stray queen just flew into his shorts while he was jogging, or if she could have set up housekeeping before he bought the shorts, or what. And we still don’t know. The good thing was that they were very easy to scoop up and flush, sitting in a neat little pile like that.

Come to think of it, was it a ploy to get me to do his laundry? Because I did wash the heck out of those shorts. I don’t think so, honestly. He knows my payoff is that I will forever get to tease him about the time he had ants in the pants.

My daughter: Elizabeth will be here soon for the “service.” 
Me: Everyone should have a best friend who is willing to drop everything and come over to help you have a funeral over your toilet. Am I dressed appropriately for a fish memorial? 
Daughter (assessing my shorts): I think she would have wanted us to be comfortable.
 ~Conversation this morning after my daughter’s beta died


  1. "marking it with flip-flops the way astronauts leave their footprints on the moon..." best line I've read so far and I have read four books recently! You are an amazing writer. You have all the elements of a novel in a brief essay. Ant eggs? Ohh, that was a science lab.

  2. I read this last night. And the horror was SO unspeakable that I could not type a comment.

    ACK! That's all I can say. ACK! Creepy crawly ACK! Make it stop!

  3. Oh, there's definitely a story there, Tammy!

    I loved the conversation with your daughter over the fish funeral. : )

    Critter Alley

  4. What a funny story! I always have a smile on my face after visiting your blog.

  5. This is hilarious! Nice to meet you at Donna's blog.

  6. Since I just got rid of my ants that were trailing all over my kitchen counter, I can kind of relate... however, yours is a much funnier story. I also loved the conversation with your daughter - sorry about your fish.

  7. Linda, that means a lot to me. Especially coming from a writer like you!

    Val, at least they didn't charge us like your Attack Spiders.

    Thanks, Pat!

    That means a lot coming from the 2012 Global First Place Winner of the Humor category of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, Donna!!

    You too, Carol! Thanks for visiting!

    Thanks, Lynn!


Any return "messages" are appreciated!