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When my children were small, we lived in a little brick ranch house in New Bern, North Carolina that was set back in the woods just outside town, near the Trent River.  So many leaves would drop in the fall that I needed a Snapper riding mower and a trailer to pick them up.  Before the last leaf fell around Christmas, I would make twenty trips or more hauling that trailer full of mulch and leaves to the recycling center.

With the woods around our house came not only leaves but all manner of winged, crawling, and scurrying creatures.  Of these, none was more beloved by my children than a common garden spider who chose to spin a web outside the window above the kitchen sink, where we could see it in the light while washing up after dinner each night.  Kip and Caroline named her Idey Spidey.  She arrived in late summer and stayed deep into the fall, weaving and tending her web each night without regard to the four sets of human eyes (matching her eight), peering warily at first, then tenderly at her from the other side of the glass, as if our house were a terrarium.  It was a nightly show none of us would miss, and the children considered her part of the family.  She disappeared one winter day—web and all—and that was the sad end of our friendship.

It is that same late-summer season, now, when the spiders are busy at their webs and will continue to be so until the frost.  I have unwittingly walked through a number of webs while taking Frodo through the woods behind our apartment, sometimes feeling the startled little engineers scurrying along my chest looking for an exit ramp.  This causes me to break into the most humiliating, epileptiform spasms of schoolgirl anxiety, dancing and flailing my arms as though each second lost were the ticking of the Clock of Doom.  Once certain that I am free of any hangers on, I glance around to see if anyone noticed my momentary lapse in manliness before continuing on my way, occasionally flipping my hair with my hand as I go just to be sure.

To avoid any similar encounters on this morning’s trek through the woods with Frodo, I broke off a dead branch and held it in front of me as I walked, so that the branch would pass through any webs before I did.  I meant none of Idey’s cousins any harm—I just prefer not to barge into their homes and take them away with me for a ride.  As I processed in this manner through the forest, walking in somber ceremony as if I were bearing a crucifer or a magic wand, I looked down and noticed that Frodo had picked up his own dead branch and was holding it in his mouth out in front of him.  There we were, two miserable scaredy-cats, both afraid of spiders, an embarrassment to our respective species.  Like father like dog, I suppose.