The Nightmare After Christmas

Lethocerus as Santa

Santa Water Bug

Black Friday marks the start of the Christmas season, so I want to get a jump start on the holidays by sharing an entomological Christmas story with you!  This is no happy Miracle on 34th Street type story though.  Oh no!  This is more like Nightmare Before Christmas.  Except it happened after Christmas.  Hence the title.

Let’s start at the beginning.  About 5 years ago, I got a call from my dad saying that he was going to come visit me for Christmas.  I was ecstatic!  It was going to be the first Christmas I hosted at my house.  I was only going to have one guest and make a fairly small dinner, but I finally felt like an adult.  Imagine my subsequent disappointment when my dad told me a few weeks later that something had come up and he was no longer able to come visit me for Christmas.

So, rather than my first Christmas at my place, I ended up visiting my dad for a few days before Christmas, then went back home December 23.  Going home two day before Christmas to spend Christmas alone is a rather depressing activity.  I also knew my Christmas would consist of a trip to drop some friends off at the airport at 6AM and then a day at home alone.  I felt sorry for myself when I got back to my empty apartment.  I don’t like feeling sorry for myself, so I decided to do something fun to cheer myself up.  On Christmas Eve, I decided that the thing that bummed me out more than anything was not having the Christmas tree I was so excited about.  Then I went out and bought one.

The tree I chose was Canadian and maybe 3 feet tall.  It was kinda spindly.  It was shockingly expensive for a tiny, spindly Christmas tree that I bought after noon on Christmas Eve.  (Who else is still looking for a tree 12 hours before Christmas?!)  It had this little white piece of fluff near the top that I couldn’t get off.  I ended up calling nearly every shop in town trying to hunt down a Christmas tree stand and 2 hours later I finally tracked one down.  It was gigantic, the kind of stand we used for the 17-foot Christmas trees my family had when I was growing up.  The screws were barely long enough to hold the tree up and it looked ridiculous.  I didn’t care.  I lovingly decorated my tree with the little box of ornaments I’d collected since I first went away to college, wrapped tons of lights around the branches, and then stepped back to admire my handiwork.  I was really happy with the result (though apparently not happy enough to take a photo that was in focus – my apologies!):

Christmas tree

My first Christmas tree! I cleverly hid the flat, spindly side in the back. :)

Having my little tree made me feel so much better about being stood up on Christmas.  It made me really happy and I spent a lot of time staring at it. And, because I had bought it so close to Christmas and it was completely fresh, I knew it would last well beyond Christmas.  I was determined to keep it up as long as it lasted.  “Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Let’s gather around the tree!”  MY tree wasn’t coming down until it started drying out.

And then one day in late January, I woke up, walked into my living room, and realized in an instant what that little white fluff on the tree was.  I was greeted that morning by hundreds or thousands of tiny baby spiders crawling on a MASSIVE web they had built in my living room.  It was a spider egg sac!  The warm temperatures in my house must have let them hatch and then they started building.  The web stretched from the wall behind the tree clear across the room to my couch.  There were spiders all over my CD player, my insect books (oh, the irony!), the floor, the bookshelves, the art on the wall.  They were EVERYWHERE!

Now I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of spiders.  I’m good with a lot of them and don’t care if they crawl on me if they’re the right kind of spider, but they still elicit this serious shivers-down-the-spine creepy feeling on occasion.  And let me tell you, starting a lazy weekend morning off with thousands of baby spiders in the house sort of short circuited my brain.  I couldn’t get the tree out of the house fast enough!  Off came the ornaments, off came the lights, off came the tree stand, and the tree was flung hastily and utterly unceremoniously out the back door.  Then came the arduous task of vacuuming up the spiders and the web.  Two hours later, I flopped down on my couch exhausted, but secure in the knowledge that my Canadian spider scourge had been vanquished and my living room was once again free of the tiny arachnids.  Of course, I imagined them crawling on me for the next week, but what can you do.

And that’s my holiday spider story!  I hope everyone has a marvelous Thanksgiving and has fabulous plans for the upcoming holiday season!


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