In the corner of my preschool classroom, inside a small terrarium, under a log with a warming light, lives Webby, our pet tarantula. Webby was my co-teacher’s class pet idea. “They are so low maintenance and are really cool!” she claimed. And she’s correct, but I would have never chosen to work in a room with a furry, eight-legged creature whose sole purpose is to grow larger. Yet here I am, writing about the unspoken bond between Webby and me. The similarities between his world and my new untethered life as an empty-nester are uncanny.
It was a Monday morning when I entered the classroom to see my glowing co-teacher, Meghan. Her Cheshire grin gave me pause. I assumed she won the lottery or planned a grand European trip she was dying to share. Instead, she held out her hand with the exuberant pride of a parent. “Webby molted!” she exclaimed. At first, I thought she was holding Webby, and I stumbled back in terror. Upon closer inspection, she was holding what once WAS Webby—fangs and all. He had grown out of his old self—shed his skin. I’m undergoing a similar process.
After some research, I discovered it takes months for a tarantula to begin to molt. They reserve energy for weeks before by lazing about, and will create a silk-like matting of web in preparation for the molting process. It may take up to eight hours to shed the old exoskeleton. During this time, the maturing arachnid is on its back in the dead possum position, scrambling like heck to break free from its restrictive shell. It has been documented that owners have mistakenly thrown out an innocent transitioning tarantula. What an awful way to go out, just before a big transformation!
According to Spruce Pets website, “The newly molted tarantula is so sensitive that even an innocuous little cricket can cause serious harm to them.” During this severe transition of mine, the smallest of things penetrate my heart. Emotions are on high during my molting process. It’s to be expected, but not easy. The article continues, “As the old exoskeleton is shed, the tarantula’s body will be soft and extremely vulnerable.”
Webby hid in his log for days after molting. I did the same, minus the log. Without the typical motherly duties to tend to, I felt lost. My new freedom was uncomfortable. I was soft, and protected myself from everything. Until I didn’t.
I accepted an invitation from a friend to shoot pool at Tarantula Billiards in Denver. I had never been, and felt Webby urging me to go. After work, a time I once used to run to King Soopers for dinner ingredients, I drove down the hill to the gritty pool hall right off the 16th Street Mall.
I breathed in the new environment as I chalked up my cue. There were approximately 15 tables with a diverse array of people angling for shots, laughing, taking sips of drinks, snacking on munchies. Fathers were shooting with sons, lovers giggled into each other’s ears, friends shouted in enthusiasm for a shot well made. The music was as culturally diverse as the crowd: Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Backstreet Boys, E-Z-E, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Marley. The lighting was dim with just the over table lights spotlighting the games at hand, focusing on what’s important. I enjoyed the clacking of pool balls and the din of people connecting on all different levels.
I hadn’t shot pool in quite a while. The simple activity sparked an untapped energy within; my mind activated as I found the proper angles to land a shot. I came to life with critical thinking, smiling and socializing all at the same time. Tarantula Billiards was exhilarating in all the right ways. Why are there not more billiard halls in the world today? Places that gather people and provide something to do at a minimal cost. It’s befuddling.
Two hours and five games of pool later, I was ready to head home, but decided to stop for a slice of pizza before doing so. It was only a block away, and in my sleepy mountain town, slices aren’t available after 8 pm. I ordered a pepperoni and mushroom slice from the assortment in the glass case and chatted a bit with the shop workers as I waited for it to heat. One dude was ready for the next stage of his evening to begin at the club, while the other couldn’t wait to get home and sleep. My slice arrived, I found a quiet corner and bit into it like a person cheating on Keto. After a long swig of my Coca Cola, I leaned back with an accomplished sigh and decided this type of night needed to happen more often.
The 40-minute ride home felt like 10 as I processed the evening. I thought about Webby and wondered if he was feeling any better. It takes considerable time to molt, often leaving us vulnerable, bewildered and raw. My bond with “The Webster” began with molting and ended in his namesake billiards hall. We’re both working on getting stronger and building webs to support our new exoskeletons. It’s a shame he doesn’t have much to say about it all.
Tarantula article: bit.ly/45IKnmF
Spruce Pets website: bit.ly/43r5to3