There are a great many things I like about vacationing in South Carolina. The weather is beautiful. The people are genteel with a natural kindness that’s simply unparalleled anywhere else in the country. And the ocean is spectacular... a warm and salty blue without a hint of the brown bubbly kelp I grew up riding waves with on the Southern California coast. The birds in the south are a bit quirky, too, with long necks and deliberate gaits that challenge you to run after them. It’s just a special place. Until you see a roach.
(I thought you’d like the shot of this pregnant crab my brother-in-law snagged in our cast net yesterday. It’s a lot better to look at than a roach...)
Locals call them Palmetto Bugs. My foot. They’re freaking cockroaches. And they’re enormous. The only thing worse than being awakened by one flying into your face in the middle of the night (while you’re mouth-breathing, no less) is to be in the shower after a long, sweaty day, rinsing off the remants of the sea and sun... only to open your eyes and see you’re inches away from stepping onto one of them on the shower floor. Like, where did it come from? And EW! They are just so incredibly disgusting. Watching one scamper off with its four inch black crusty shell into the corners of a room you have to occupy for several more days is as bad as sleeping in a bed with sand in it. No. It’s way worse than that.
(The Littles swimming with their cousin, Reagan, before we netted the crab....)
I liken these dear Palmettos to snarky family members who smile at your face but stab you in the back the minute you turn around. They’re as bad as lousy neighbors, insecure friends or nacisstic co-workers who seem more interested in whatever it is that you’re doing than ever having an original thought of their own. And, like all the aforementioned people in our lives, there’s no way to escape the Palmetto. He lurks in the shadows of your world and only emerges when you start to feel safe. And to think... for all these years, I’ve mocked Joe for wearing shoes at night when he wakes up to go to the bathroom. EW. The thought of stepping onto one barefoot in the dark makes me shiver.
I wonder if God sprinkles foul creatures into our lives to remind us of the good stuff. The safe stuff. The stuff that doesn’t make us want to throw up in our mouths. These nasty little creatures like the Palmettos remind us that no matter how hard we try to avoid yucky people or uncomfortable situations, they are a part of life. There is no exterminator in the world who will ever eradicate them. They are here to stay.
So - to any of you frustrated by a family member, or a friend, or a colleague whose behavior has let you down, remember their lineage. Cockroaches have survived the worst maelstroms in history.... as have nasty people. The one benefit of the Palmetto, however, is that we can at least stomp on them with our shoes. Palmetto People, sadly, aren’t so easily crunched and kicked aside. I guess our best move is to accept them and forgive them. Their hard, crunchy shell may offer them some protection, but it can’t hide what missing inside. Heart. Originality. Safety.
A strange correlation, perhaps? Connecting cockroaches to toxic people? Perhaps. But without them, we wouldn’t be so careful about where we step as we follow our life’s path. Run away, little pests! Tonight I’m sleeping with my hardest-soled shoes next to my bed.