Friday, June 22, 2012

Mrs. Cupo and the Roach

Once upon a time, when Sally’s husband was trying to support a family of six by teaching adjunct classes at about 460 different colleges in Memphis and North Mississippi, we went to her house for a ROFTers meeting. I was sitting at the end of the couch (Well, the futon, which is a futon on which I have since slept many times.). As I listened to the discussion, I got an eerie feeling that I was being watched. I turned to my right and saw two beautiful, little, elfin children, probably 3 and 5 at the time, 

When their eyes start glowing, watch out.
standing stock still and staring at me with an intensity that one associates with the children in Village of the Damned. One of them slowly lifted an arm, pointed to a spot on the floor and solemnly said, "Mrs. Cupo. Roach." "Yes, I said, that is indeed a roach." I felt as if I had been initiated into some Esoteric Order of the Vermin. 

I recognized the roach right off the bat because in our younger days my husband and I lived in the original roach motel and, unfortunately, did not have the funds to evict our slovenly tenants. It would probably be helpful to remember things like this when I'm waxing nostalgic about the days when my children were little. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "empty nest syndrome." 

A few years later, Sally's husband had obtained the sort of position in academia that is seldom awarded to people who are concerned about Truth, or God, or worse, both combined, and the family moved to North Carolina where there is an academic institution that is concerned about those sorts of things. We went to visit them in their lovely two-story house with screened-in porches on the front and back, which causes me to commit the sin of covetousness, but that's probably not their fault.

Anyway, by this time the family had put the days of horrid, feral water bugs behind them, and had moved up to large, domesticated Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches which lived in their very own cage, a gift from a retired teacher, I think. As far as I know, they stayed in their cage. I hope so--I really do hope so. I was offered the opportunity to play with them, but did not feel like I had risen high enough in the EOV to take advantage of this honour.

This is not Mrs. Cupo on the futon.

The last time we visited, I believe all the inscets were outside and Sally's son offered me a piece of pottery which he had made in the garage. I am just boring enough to appreciate this work of art more than the chance to pet a roach and I keep it on shelf in my dining room. At Christmas, I put a little, bitty angel in it.

If you have never read Sally's blog, you really should look it over. You will find a lot of very wonderful poetry, and some very funny stories and some nice pictures of her children and her garden and lots of other things. If you don't homeschool, you might not think the first item is quite up your alley, but if you keep looking around, you're sure to find some really good stuff.


  1. Thanks for the blog link, and for the story, and for thinking my children are, or were at that age, beautiful and elfin.

    If it's any consolation, your house gives me land envy, so we probably come out even.

    Anyone who's lived in the South at all could write a personal history of encounters with roaches. I understand that they're a lot bigger in Alabama; I'm just as happy to make do with the more modest northerly ones. The apartment we lived in when we first came back to Memphis was the worst, on the order of magnitudes of roach-motel-ness, and this was made worse by the fact that our kids had largely grown up in Utah and England and felt that they'd stumbled onto the set of a horror movie and couldn't get out, ever. It was Roach Motel California, all the time. Our next rental house -- the one on White Station where we first started hosting ROFTers -- had hardly any roaches at all, for some strange reason (maybe the little ultrasonic devices plugged into the electrical outlets?), though the absence of roaches was more than compensated for by the presence of very large rats in the laundry room.

    Then we had the house of roaches and flying squirrels. I kind of miss the latter.

    No black snakes, though. You win, though my friend Debbie here, who lives in the country up above Hickory, tells a hair-raising story about hearing something clinking around in the Mason jars on the shelf above her washing machine, down in their basement. She got her husband, who unlike her is very tall, to shine a flashlight onto the shelf; he reported a pair of eyes staring fixedly back at him from among the jars. They'd just moved into that house, and in that moment they understood why the single thing the previous owner had left behind was one of those snake-catching sticks with a loop at one end. Her husband -- also named Bill, coincidentally -- managed to snag the snake with the loop and started pulling. Yards and yards of snake emerged from the shelf, not quietly. It did not want to go outside, not one bit. As he dragged it thrashing across their basement floor toward the door, its tail came in contact with an aluminum ladder which happened to be standing there, minding its own business. The snake wrapped its tail around one leg of the ladder and refused to let go. Somehow her Bill managed to get the whole affair -- snake and ladder, as it were -- outside. I didn't think to ask whether any of the Mason jars survived this incident.

  2. Well, they are a bit less ethereal now, but still beautiful and very funny.

    I was thinking about your flying squirrels last night--and your rabbits.

    Now I know exactly what to get Bill for his birthday. And I will keep it in the kitchen.

  3. Never speak the r word again. These creatures have a tazer like effect on me.

  4. Well, *I* think they're beautiful and funny, of course! But they are pretty solid and covered with mosquito bites and scrapes and bruises and other evidence of their physical presence in the physical world these days.

    I really do miss the flying squirrels and was sad to leave them behind. I still miss that house, roaches and all.

    And yep, for the country-living man who already has everything else . . . though if he doesn't already have one of those tennis-racket-looking electric bug whackers, those are fun, too. Father's Day kicked off the fly-incineration season around here.

  5. Sally's children were far more polite than a friend who came over to our house on Spottswood.

    We were all having a pleasent time when she suddenly pointed at the wall and screamed "ROACH!!"

    It was as a scene from the movie "Them."

    At least it was only one roach.

  6. Oh, I'll have to check that out,too. It sounds like big-time fun.


  7. Our last rabbit died recently, by the way. The kids saw some bunnies at the flea market last weekend and were begging me to get another one, and I wasn't remotely nice about it. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. NO more rabbits.

  8. I was posting on your blog while you were posting on mine.

    You could start an aviary on your back porch!


  9. I must say I was surprised that the roach story didn't involve any screaming or running or similar antics. Pretty funny anyway, just imagining those faces. I suppose the children were disappointed in your reaction?

    I'm afraid my funniest stuff-my-children-did story is one I wouldn't be able to do justice to in words. *Sure* wish I had it on video. That one does not involve a roach, but there is another one that does. I'll have to write it up sometime.

  10. Janet's never struck me as much of a screamer; also, this was in the middle of a Readers of First Things meeting. i can remember another ROFTers-meeting roach incident, in the same house, right after we'd moved in. This one involved Bill.

    As I say, we'd just moved into this house and started contending with the roaches and various other problems, and that night we had all these people crammed into our small living room, which was actually a den next to the kitchen, because we had closed off the real, larger, "formal" living room for a bedroom. Some previous owner had knocked out the wall between the den and kitchen and replaced it with an island (another thing I really miss about that house), and we had drinks and desserts spread out all over the island counter for the meeting.

    At some point during the meeting I happened to glance in that direction and saw a gigantic roach marching across the counter among (and probably over) all the food. I also recall observing that another woman at the meeting, whose house I can't help thinking would NOT have had gigantic roaches on the countertop, was noticing the same thing at the same time.

    Yak yak yak, went the Important Topical Religious Conversation, to which I was now not listening. March march march went the roach.

    I'm trying to remember exactly what Bill did -- I think I remember that he was in the main room with the rest of us, but also observed this roach, and managed to maneuver himself into the kitchen, never disrupting the flow of talk. There he waited for the roach to fly or drop onto the floor, where he stomped it into oblivion. Except for that one other woman who I think must have been horrified and me, nobody else seemed to notice that anything other than talk was going on. It was like watching a silent assassination in the crowd at a parade.

    The most screaming-at-vermin I can remember doing was when I was about fourteen and opened a bag of horse feed which turned out to be full of rats. I still have nightmares about that. It was pretty nightmarish when it happened, not only because having about fifty rats come pouring out of your bag of sweetfeed is startling, to say the least, but because I had laryngitis at the time, so when I screamed, I couldn't make any noise. Errgh.

  11. No, I'm usually pretty intrepid, but I can guarantee you that the rat thing would have had me screaming and running and shivering--lots of shivering for a long time.

    I may have emitted a tiny scream when 3-year-old Michael and I were at the zoo one day and when I turned the crank on the dispenser of some sort of animal food, a mouse ran into my hand. It didn't really scare me, but it startled the heck out of me.


  12. I believe there are very few people in the world who would not have had some kind of pretty strong reaction to the rats in the feed bag.