Life in the woods/country has already turned me into a homicidal maniac. To explain: I have no problem with bugs (now, rodents are another issue, but that’s a topic for another day). I’ve spent my whole life taking the approach that spiders are good because they eat bugs, and thus benevolently trapping & shooing as many spiders and bugs back into nature as I could. I felt like such a benign, evolved human being. But now I realize that it’s easy to feel that way when you live in suburban/urban environments. After about a week of living in Vermont, it was clear that taking this attitude would swiftly result in our house becoming one big spiderweb. While I still have no intrinsic problem with spiders, they need to not be here. And they’re of no use to me, anyway; we have SO many other bugs, any eating the spiders could do would be a drop in the bucket. So we’ve become a family of ruthless bug killers, right down to Campbell “The Ant Crusher” Gong.
That said, earlier this week I noticed a medium-sized brown spider that had spun a web in the little crack between our sink and refrigerator. She was just hanging out, watching me wash the breakfast dishes. For some reason, she seemed different — peaceful, still. She also seemed touchingly optimistic; her choice of location was definitely NOT a hot spot for bug catching, and for the better part of the week, I never saw a single bug in her web. So I didn’t kill her, and I stopped Erick from doing away with her, too. Because I’d just been reading Fiona Charlotte’s Web, I gave her the completely unoriginal name of Charlotte.
And there she stayed, keeping me company while I did various domestic tasks in the kitchen. We seemed to have an understanding. I wasn’t expecting much from her (although I did entertain some fantasies of coming down in the morning to find “Radiant!” or “Some Wife & Mother” scrawled out in web over the sink). But it felt nice to have some company during the quiet summer afternoons when all the girls were napping.
This morning, she was gone. We haven’t seen her all day, and I’m not expecting her to return. Because I haven’t encountered any new spider corpses, I’m assuming the best. I hope that Charlotte finally wised up to the futility of trying to catch bugs between the sink and the fridge, and has moved on to a more strategic location. I wish her happy hunting.
It’s a week when we’ve been thinking a lot about friends and loss; this morning, Erick attended the memorial service of one of the first friends we made in Middlebury. Adam was 39 years old. He was the husband of one of Erick’s new colleagues in the Middlebury Economics Department, the full-time stay-at-home dad of two boys ages 2 and 4, and a volunteer firefighter. Just that description probably gives you an idea of what an exceptional person he was. I first met Adam and Caitlin back in April at a potluck that the Econ Department hosted while Erick and I were house-hunting. They were so warm and welcoming, the kind of people whom we instantly felt would become friends. When he learned that our two oldest girls were the same ages as their sons, Adam invited us to participate in a little summer soccer league that he was putting together for toddlers.
When we moved to Middlebury, Adam was one of the first people I saw; the girls and I ran into him and his boys at the Ben Franklin’s, and he gave me a big welcome hug. The next week we started attending the weekly “Lil’ Kickers Summer Soccer” that he organized, which the girls have loved and which has directly resulted in us meeting most of the families of preschool children in town. When my parents took the girls to soccer one week, they commented on how Adam knew every child (roughly 30 each week) by name and encouraged each one of them.
Adam and Caitlin invited us to a 4th of July barbeque at their house. There, they told us that they were heading off on a trip to visit family down South. Two weeks later, we learned that they’d been in a terrible head-on collision in Alabama, and that Adam was dead.
So our hearts have been very sad this past week. We’re sad that we won’t have a chance to get to know Adam better, to have him be a part of our life here. We’re deeply sad for Caitlin and their two boys (please pray for them if you think of it), and of course this hits pretty close to home since they’re in the same life stage as we are. And the girls are sad, especially Fiona, who’s at an age to really understand. This is her first close encounter with death. She was with me when Erick called with the news. She sat quietly, and then said, “Mommy, I was really looking forward to seeing Mr. Adam at soccer when they got back, because I really liked him.” All of those trite, corny, but true sayings, like hug your loved ones every day and enjoy the time you have with your friends are on our minds these days.
On the positive side, it’s been amazing to see the speed and grace with which both the town and the college have responded to this tragedy. There is already a website set up to provide Caitlin and the boys with meals and other needs, and some 300 people attended the memorial service this morning. And we will always have Adam to thank for making us feel instantly welcome in Middlebury and for introducing us to people who are already becoming new friends. Hopefully we’ll be able to pay his warmth forward some day.
I know this is heavy stuff for a blog that most of you probably read to see cute photos of our kids. We are all well and continuing to enjoy a magical summer, and I promise an upbeat post very soon. Here’s a cute picture of Erick and the girls after raspberry picking to tide you over for now.
And here’s the quote from The Return of the King to which we often refer when talking to our girls about tragedies for which we have no answer:
Sam lay back, and stared with open mouth, and for a moment, between bewilderment and great joy, he could not answer. At last he gasped: ‘Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?’
We believe that yes, it will.