What is it that causes adults to remember some childhood good times, a few embarassing moments, but all, and I mean all, scary, bug, or vermin related experiences? Here are my stories.
During my family's early years living in the city, we rented a series of two room flats, usually on the second level of someone's house. At one particular location, I slept on a cot in the kitchen. I recall hearing scratching sounds and rustling noises during the night. After one restless sleep, I mentioned this to my parents who informed me that it was mice. It's tough for an eight year old to sleep well after receiving such information. There were no visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Instead, I had nightmares about mice, waltzing across my young, sleeping body.
I also have memories of school headlice checks. Those shishkebab skewers through the hair became a regular event back in the days when there were actually school nurses onsite. As soon as my mom heard of a case of lice anywhere in the western hemisphere, she began looking through my hair as if she hoped to find gold. She found neither lice nor gold but felt appeased as she located and disposed of the occasional speck of dirt.
In order to escape the city, my parents took advantage of invitations to peoples' cottages. We enjoyed the swimming, the saunas, the social life. I was a kid. I liked going out and collecting frogs. It was fun to see how many I could line up on a large rock that jutted out of the lake before they would take their leave and jump into the water. One day, I found an extra large one, a bullfrog. I set him down and admired my lineup. Suddenly, he turned and gulped the small frog beside him. I watched in horror as little legs dangled from the bullfrog's mouth. I quickly grabbed the rest of my froggy friends and tossed them back into the bushes. Tears streamed down my face after I witnessed this act of cannibalism.
Another incident happened when I was ten years old. We had relocated to a better neighbourhood and now rented two rooms and a kitchen. My parents' bedroom was large enough to double as a seating/entertainment area and they even managed to squeeze in a full-sized tree at Christmas. At last I had my own tiny room and a convertible sofa bed. One morning, I noticed some rather large spots on my pillow case. Odd. I didn't think my hair was that dirty. My parents first discovered them...bedbugs. They traced the source to one of my recent sleepovers at a family friend's. After emptying a rather large can of RAID and opening the windows, while fanning the smell, they discussed their fear of potential eviction. That night, I slept on the floor. The next night, I was the "bait" to see whether the invaders were gone. They weren't. This time, it was all out war. All crevices, creases and the wooden frame were treated. Traumatic!
Perhaps these sorts of incidents toughened me up. I once earned money picking dew worms at a local golf course. It was hard work but didn't seem icky. When I went to an art camp with a group of adults, the cabin was full of mice. Some women freaked out. Others moved into tents. I went to sleep. At work we had visiting scientists bringing roaches, reptiles and assorted wildlife. Interesting.
Recently I made a hotel reservation for my friend Mona and me. She was concerned and asked whether I had checked the web for bedbugs at that location.
I'm still laughing.