Miller Time

When I was about 12 years old an event that would become one of the most hotly debated stories within my family happened. It was as ridiculous as it was horrific and divided the bloodline for years to come. Of course I’m talking about when my Great-Grandma Mooney was “allegedly” attacked by a vicious, unrelenting, terrifying…moth.

In our house a moth is called a miller. While both are accurate (a miller is a type of moth that loves to live in homes…sort of like The Borrowers), I’ve never heard the word miller used up here in Maryland regardless of favored habitat of said insect, so it must be country speak from days spent wasting time down in the holler. So, during one fateful summer at my grandparents’, this moth/aka/miller flutters its way into the house probably looking for a light bulb to beat itself against for hours on end. When, all of a sudden, it was gone. Poof. We thought it must’ve flown out the window and were ready to scrub the intrusion from our mind completely.

Well, we start to notice Grandma Mooney jerking her head every once in a while and muttering to herself like one of those more quiet (and dangerous) inmates at a lunatic asylum. She gets up, sort of shuddering…I’m not sure how else to describe it, and starts swatting at her head with her hands swearing that the moth flew into her ear. We all let her have her dramatic episode with none of us actually paying her much attention. She keeps breathing heavily and tossing her head and getting even louder with her ooooohs and aaaahhhs so we decided maybe it’s time to actually listen to her.  My Mom gets a bit concerned, but she was the only one out of the adults to do so. My grandmother, Grandma Jimmie, isn’t buying it.

What you need to understand about my Grandma Jimmie is that while she was smart as a tack and generous in most respects, she also housed a bit of a mean streak. Patience was not a virtue she was keenly familiar with, especially when it concerned her mother, Grandma Mooney.

So Grandma Mooney is hooting and hollering about this damn moth and Grandma Jimmie is stubbornly refusing to take the bait. The story is just too ridiculous for words. Eventually, someone caved and brought a flashlight out to look in her ear. What do they see? Nothing. Nada. No evidence or trace of a moth anywhere, especially not in Grandma Mooney’s ear canal.

The lack of proof certainly didn’t dissuade my Grandma Mooney. Every few seconds she’d shudder, then twitch her head, claiming she can still feel the damn thing flapping around inside her head. Grandma Jimmie is over it and wants to put the nail in the coffin on this pure fabrication. So to “appease” Grandma Mooney, she pulls out a turkey baster…yes—a turkey baster…fills it with peroxide (not quite sure why that particular medium was chosen) and shoves it none too gently into Grandma Mooney’s ear. She then proceeds to syringe the hell out of Grandma Mooney’s ear FULL FORCE which (I’m assuming) was at the very least…not pleasant. I mean eardrums are fairly sensitive and probably don’t respond well to being blasted with a torrent of peroxide shot out of a turkey baster wielded by a highly annoyed woman.

1,2,3,4 times Grandma Jimmie floods the ear with this peroxide baster. What do they see now? Still nothing. No moth. So that’s it, the jig is up. It is decided that Grandma Mooney, God bless her soul, is lying. Or crazy.  Or both. Still, she stuck to her guns and kept on saying she could feel it fluttering. Moth or no moth, could we all just agree that at the very least she was now contending with what must have been an insanely horrendous cacophony of bubbling in her ear from the peroxide?? I mean, can you imagine!?

Time passes. The moth is forgotten. Though I suspect Grandma Mooney’s hearing was never the same again. Lo and behold about 8 YEARS later, a dead moth falls out of her ear! Just plops right out of her ear! It had been in there the whole damn time. She was right and had always been right. Not that Grandma Mooney had ever needed any proof!

I’ve often wondered that if it hadn’t drowned or been bubbled to death and subsequently driven deep into her ear canal by that flash flood if it would’ve come out sooner. In all that time she never developed an infection or serious medical condition because of the insect corpse, so I consider her lucky in that way. But it makes my skin crawl thinking about some winged creature being lodged inside my ear for that long. If she wasn’t crazy before that moth flew into her ear, can you imagine what having it in there fluttering around would do to a person?? Or knowing it was in there and dead?  Ugh….

It truly haunts me and to this day, any time I see a moth, I instantly cover my ears. My kids laugh at me but they just don’t know the danger these vile creatures pose! My mom is the same way. One of the reasons she keeps her hair just long enough to cover her ears is so that she always has a little cover to block any unwelcome moths. You see my Grandma Mooney had amazingly lush, long, thick, beautiful hair – but she kept it up in a bun, thereby leaving her ears completely exposed to all and sundry. Had she been just a bit less modest, perhaps all of this could have been avoided. This is a real threat people! Don’t leave your ears vulnerable! You’ve been warned!

31 thoughts on “Miller Time

  1. 1. FWIW, my parents (from South Dakota) used to refer to the, as “millers” as well.

    2. One of my daughters is ridiculously phobic about moths. Butterflies she loves – go figure. Going to a night ballgame and sitting in the nose-bleed seats up by the lights can be an adventure.

    3. Not a moth per se, but given the (great!) story, there’s a memorable old “Night Gallery” episode you NEVER, EVER want to watch.

    • I’m glad to know it’s not just us who call them millers! When I forget and call them millers, people where I live just stare at me with this blank look on their face and I have to correct myself and say “moth.” You know, maybe your daughter somehow senses the inherent difference in moths and butterflies and therefore sees the evil that lurks in moths! And now I’m off to google Night Gallery episodes because I have a very, very twisted sense of curiosity that will not allow me to rest until I know which specific episode you’re talking about.

      • Just Google “Night Gallery Earwig” but don’t say you weren’t warned! Remember what Checkov said in “Star Trek II” – “Captain, they put THINGS in our ears!”

      • Oh no! If it’s like the Wrath of Khan then I’ll just stay away! That scene seriously gave me the creeps! That’s all you needed to say. Stepping away from the google…. LOL

        You know — I absolutely adore horror flicks and can take all manner of gore. But insects or things in the ears? Not so much.

  2. wow I can’t imagine how crazy that must of made your grandma having that moth inher ear all that time, and yes without an ear infection. But one question….why didn’t grandma mooney go to the doctor to get it looked at?

    • That’s an excellent question and one I’ve wondered about myself. At that point in time, Grandma Mooney (she was my great-grandmother) was quite elderly and relied on her daughter, my Grandma Jimmie for such things. And I suppose Grandma Jimmie wasn’t overly concerned because surely she would’ve seen the moth in the ear or else, it would’ve been washed out from the peroxide “bath” IF it had ever been in there in the first place. THAT being the key point. I guess Grandma Jimmie simply never believed it had ever been in the ear to begin with.

      • OK but at somepoint even at a doctor check up ….somebody should have noticed something ….heck doctors notice wax build up and notice everything else why not a moth?

      • I know…I agree. You’d think someone would’ve checked. But either they didn’t look in her ears (at all) or else it was so far down in there, they didn’t see it. When I was writing this entry, my Mom and I were discussing it and she thought perhaps the doctors simply never even looked in Grandma Mooney’s ears for any reason. I thought maybe the moth was just well hidden — due to the light color and being pushed so far down in there. And I don’t know if it was ever brought up by either of my grandmothers as something to be specifically checked. It was definitely a very odd happening. My family is odd.

      • Bless their hearts, my family’s lives provides a lot of material that will have people saying “ewww…” or laughing out loud or shaking their heads. Sure does make for good writing material for me though. You just can’t make this stuff up. LOL Thank you for reading!

      • Books turn into movie and tv deals maybe even a tv series based on your book lol anything is possible. You write enough to fill a book anyway so ….why not?

  3. I was just about to write what jr cline had written. I try not to look at other people’s comments but it was just sitting right above the line I was about to type on. So here goes: I will never look at a moth in the same way again.

    • You know, it’s funny…I seriously do cover my ears when I see a moth in the house. My kids have always laughed at me. They just didn’t get it. I’ve told them the story before but maybe because when I originally told them, they were younger…or maybe they thought I was telling an old wive’s tale…I don’t know. Then they read this entry. Now they’re like: “ahhh…we get it now!”

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