The Borders of My Room
I’m sitting on a wicker stool stenciling a wall in my bedroom. A denim cushion covers the stool as I start bending forward to apply paint in a new area. An open window has a teddy bear lying below it. When a light breeze comes through the window I look down at the bear. Daddy gave me it on my fourteenth birthday this spring. I took it off my bed a couple of weeks ago because it was too big.
I feel important today because mom allowed me to do this stenciling for the first time. The stencil has a pattern of wild violets and leaves. Today is Saturday and the weather is warming up. I can’t wait for summer vacation. Only two weeks of school left! Mom has signed me up for swim lessons and day camp. In August we’ll all head north to camp for a week. We’ll build campfires and may even see some lightening bugs. Jason will take off with Daddy to look for treasures in the woods: some seeds, rocks and moss on fallen branches. When we return from camping Jason always puts his treasures in a locked box in his room.
Just as I’m concentrating on stenciling the next violet, Jason thumps into the room. I hear a banging against the door which means new treasures are coming in with him. I turn toward him as he approaches. His shirt is hanging out from his shorts and his hair, streaked from running his hands continually through it, is falling in his face. Jason is a real “dorkwad” at eight, tripping over his shoelaces, reaching out with grubby fingers. He continually tries to stab at my Princess Puff Girls pillows. He told me he wants to punch a big hole in their yucky faces. What a little nerd.
He’s holding a butterfly net in his left hand as he waits for me to show him some attention. I should have shut my door.
“Yes, Jason,” I sigh. “What do you want?” I put on an air of importance. After all, I just turned fourteen a few months ago, got my own cell phone and have real cups in my bathing suit. I’m wearing the suit under my top for a pool party this afternoon. We’re going to listen to the coolest pop singer Gwen Stefani and splash around. Jason is not tagging along.
He stands in front of the window next to me. I pretend to brush off some invisible dirt from my knees he always brings in and sigh some more.
“Hey, have you got dirt on my carpet?” I’m about to move the stool a little farther down to continue my stenciling, when, with a sudden jerk he exclaims:
“Hey Shel, look, there’s a daddy longlegs on the window. Wow. Let’s catch it and pull off its legs.”
“Don’t you dare,” I reply. Jason rolls up on the balls of his feet and I turn my head quickly to look. “I’ll tell mom. Mom.” I call out. The sudden movement of my head causes the paintbrush to slide against my pants.
“My brand-new capris,” I shriek. “Look what you’ve done.” I now see a small circle of paint near the knee. I remember how hard it was to find a matching top with these pink capris, which I just had to have. Mom and I walked and walked through the mall that day. We settled on a white lacy blouse to match. Any other color made me look…well, like a clown.
I pause to listen but there’s no answer from downstairs. She’s probably outside planting more flowers. The rains were heavy this spring and mom wanted to get more in the ground before it got too hot.
Jason’s grin disappears, waiting for any sound that might come from downstairs. He rolls back with his dark sneakers firmly planted on the floor. He’s still watching the daddy longlegs. We both realize Mom is not coming up to sort this out like the time he stuck a wad of gum under my side of the kitchen table. Luckily he makes no move toward the spider.
As we continue to look on, Jason leans forward and taps his finger on the sill. A smile slowly starts on his face. The daddy longlegs retreats at first then starts to move in my direction. Jason chuckles and laughs louder:
“Look Shel, it’s coming to get you. It’s going to crawl into your bed tonight and bite you.”
He feels safe. There’s still silence from downstairs. I keep my eye on him as I attempt to rub at the paint on my knee. I want to make sure he doesn’t make a move toward the spider. Some of his hair has fallen further over his right eye now. Maybe he won’t see the spider move and it can crawl back out the window.
I blow air out as I realize the paint is not coming out. Does anyone else have a little brother?
“Ah, shush,” I reply. “It’s just a creepy crawler.” I was thinking of them both. “I wonder where its home is,” I continue, with another satisfying sigh of an older and wiser sister. Jason needs to appreciate living creatures and let them be. I get up to move my stool farther from the window. I think of next year when our class will dissect a real frog. I feel I don’t want to think that far ahead. Jason looks at me eagerly. He wants to ask me an important question.
As I settle onto the stool, I lean my fingers on my knee to hide the paint spot. A superior sister is the best in the world. I smile up at him as he hesitates.
“Um,… Shel, do you think the spider really has a home? I wonder where it goes. Does it have a family too?”
I pause for a few moments, uncertain about insects. We know about webs and eggs of course, but how?
I finally answer. “Let’s see. Yes, it has a home, which you know is a web. Spiders trap insects in their web to eat. There are 'mommy' longlegs and 'baby' longlegs. The web has different rooms where the family lives and eats.”
I hope I’ve explained it, however the paint spot remains on my capris. This is more important. I’m going to wait… and wait. At the camping site there will be lots of creeping insects. The ones that end up in your sleeping bag.
“Go back to your silly Sponge Bob,” I exclaim in a whiny voice of a 6-year old. “Oh, and by the way, it’s ‘Shel..eeeeee’. How would you like to be called ‘Jase’? Sounds like some fruity punch drink. Ha ha.”
Jason neither leaves nor tries to get back at me. Is he deciding the spider’s life? He still has the butterfly net in his hand. I never saw what was in it.
“Hey,” Jason pushes back the hair from his eye. “The daddy longlegs is crawling up your side of the window. It’s gonna reach the top, come back down on my side, then go home.” The spider used all of its legs to hold onto the frame and was moving upside down now. Wow! It moved in a graceful, delicate way.
“Ah, I’m too old now for Sponge Bob,” Jason grins. “Anyway, a dead treasure isn’t any fun. It’s not gonna end up squirming in my butterfly net either.”
Jason was going to be thinking about the spider’s home: a cozy web and a room of its own to bring back treasures. He was making me happy.
As he turns to leave, he adds, “Oh, ‘Shel…ah…eeee’, Scott, me and Michael are gonna be selling lemonade after lunch. We wanna put out household stuff. Can we sell your Princess Puff pillows?”