I had my first brush with some of Florida’s more unique creatures when I was 5. I think we were visiting our not-quite-ready house, and mom and dad left me at the front door as a spotter while they went to test the sprinkler system. As I dutifully waited for the first signs of water, a dragonfly came in fast and low towards me. Having never before seen anything so bizarre looking, I freaked out, and howled until someone came to my rescue.
However, it didn’t take long for me to grow accustomed to all of the curious animals that lingered around at my eye level. Two-inch long palmetto bugs in the pantry? No problem. Lizards scurrying away as I picked up my inflatable killer whale? Whatever. I grew older and these minor nuisances faded further and further into the backdrop, surfacing into my consciousness periodically, as when I stared absent-mindedly out the window at a lizard bobbing its head, staring at me staring at it.
Ten years later, I live in a city apartment in the northeast, and mice are my new pest, but something about them — maybe their categorization as mammals — is incongruous to their presence in my living space. From the moment they first left evidence in my kitchen to the most recent time (more than six months ago) that one of my traps put a merciless end to their trespassing, I abhor their presence, and every moving shadow in my apartment is a potential intruder.
Now that I am always on guard, I find that I can’t relax in my childhood home. The lizards, wasps, even occasional snakes that used to happily coexist with me on my parents’ patio now each give me a jump, and it’s not until I completely succumb to my trademark afternoon food-induced nap that I am at ease, mouth dropped open, allowing lord knows what to crawl in there. At last, I am truly back home.