Web of Memories by Mildred Grant

          “Have you met our new neighbors yet?” Fred asked as we sat down to supper.
          “Yes. There’s Pam, a very pretty Mom, Bob, a handsome Dad, Janelle, a beautiful little girl, Justin a charming baby boy, also a friendly collie dog named Samantha.”
           Always the pessimist, Fred said, “ Probably more garden ‘help’ than you’ll want.”
          “I managed very well with our own children,”  I replied, “so I’m sure we’ll get along nicely. Besides, if she doesn’t already know about gardening, there’s lots I can help her to learn.”
          My flower garden was at lawn level, surrounding a stone patio, where, each summer, we put up a screen house. Brick pathways, flower beds, a bird bath, and a small lily/fish pond. The back and east end of the garden sloped away, so we built up a wall of large stones topped with flat rocks, making a gardening strip below the wall. Taller flowers, Delphinium, some bearded Iris, Canterbury Bells, Foxgloves, spring bulbs, Ajuga, and Cardinal Flower, with room for a few annuals for extra color, all grew below the wall.
           As the summer progressed, we became better acquainted with our new neighbors, and part of Fred’s prediction came true. Janelle wanted to help with the gardening, but she was very careful to follow suggestions and learned, quickly, many of my ways of doing things.
          One morning, still a little shy, Pam came over with Janelle, saying, “We have a question for you. What was that deep, booming voice we heard last night?”
          “Oh, that was Ferguson Frog. I call him ‘Gus’ for short. He has made his home in the stone wall over at the end of the garden nearest your house. Would you like to peek into his house?”
          “O_O_OH, yes,” came the breathless answer to my question. “Now? Please?”
          Glad of a break from weeding, I stood and we went to the section of wall where Gus lived.
          “Where is he?”  Janelle asked anxiously. “ I don’t see him!”
          “You’d want a roof if this was your house, wouldn’t you?” I asked. “This big flat rock is Ferguson Frog’s roof, so we’ll lift it up very carefully and see if he is at home.”
          “There’s just two more rocks,” cried Janelle, very disappointed.
          I instructed Janelle to “scrunch” down, which she did. Reaching over a bit and down to the two stones, I rapped, gently. Out popped the nose and eyes of a huge frog, sending Janelle over backwards. Reversing, quickly, she reached out to touch Gus, not too sure of what the reception might be.
          “You can try to touch him, but he may choose to back off this time,” I told her.
          One plump little index finger just barely touched his head. Ferguson Frog endured the light touch for half a second, then he quickly withdrew into his hollowed out home under the two rocks. We put his roof back on, leaving him in peace to plan his evening concert.
          “Come over here, Janelle,” I called. “I have something else to show you.”
          Sylvia, a black spider, the hairy legged variety, with yellow stripes on her body had spun her web from a Columbine to a tall Foxglove, then to a Canterbury Bell plant, a space covering about five feet along the lower wall.
          As she approached I pointed to a small bug, asking, “Can you catch him?”
          In just a couple of tries she had the bug imprisoned in her little fist. Peeking through the tiny opening between her curled thumb and forefinger, she started to giggle. “He’s such a funny looking bug and his feet tickle.”
          “Take the bug, Janelle, toss it so it hits the spider’s web and let’s see what happens,” I suggested.
          The bug hit the web halfway between the Foxglove and the Columbine, sending tremors over Sylvia Spider’s whole network of web roads.
          “See?  She’s testing each main road to find out where the most action is. That will tell her where her next meal is stuck to the sticky web.”
           “Here she comes,” said Janelle. “Look at what she’s doing!  She’s spinning my bug around and around. She’s wrapped him all up in a white web blanket! Why didn’t she just eat my bug?”
          I answered, “Look at the web more closely. How many wrapped up meals does Sylvia Spider already have?”
          Though it took a few minutes and a couple recounts, Janelle came up with nine neatly wrapped bundles.
          “That’s not enough food to last very long,” she observed. “I can find and capture some more bugs, so Sylvia can have lots to eat.”
          “How would it be if we took a glass jar, caught some more bugs, and saved them for our spider friend?” I asked. “I think there’s just the right container all ready for us in the shed.”
          As I handed the jar to Janelle, she wanted to know why there were several holes punched through the container’s cover. “If that was to be your home, you’d need air wouldn’t you?” I asked. “Also, food,” as I grabbed a handful of grass, stuffing it into the jar as she held it open. “Sylvia Spider needs live food so you have to keep the bugs alive until you toss them into her web,” I explained. “You keep the jar and put whatever bugs you can find into it, so you can feed her whenever you want.”
          “Janelle, lunch time,” Pam called. “Your Dad will be home in just a few minutes.”
          “Oh, Mom, I have to catch some bugs to put in my jar so I can feed Sylvia Spider,” cried Janelle.
          Knowing that she usually had an afternoon nap, I suggested, “Sylvia has enough food for a while. You are tired and I have to take down, fold, and put away the wash I did this morning. Tomorrow there’ll be plenty of time to catch bugs for Sylvia, check on Ferguson Frog, and maybe we’ll have time to look up Mr. Snizzle Snake that lives in the stone wall near Gus.
          “Tomorrow? Really?” she asked.
          “Yes,” I assured her. “Tomorrow.”

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