I love screens on windows and doors. Living in Italy taught me that.

Northern Italy boasts weather similar to North Carolina, but in the late 1980s no one in our Italian village had air conditioning. Humidity was high, and the heat in the summer was oppressive. Italy closed down for reposo (afternoon break) for a few hours every day when the heat was at its worst. They still do. Windows and doors to balconies were open all summer. We dealt with the flying critters the same way the Italians did, with a fly swatter.

On a particularly hot and humid day in June, I was already cranky when I noticed a lizard on the spiral staircase staring at me. It batted its eyes as if to say, “Catch me if you can.”

Challenge accepted! Flies were one thing, but lizards? Not even in an alternate reality did lizards belong in my house. I grabbed the nearest weapon at my disposal, which turned out to be my preschool-aged son’s plastic golf club. I proceeded to chase the lizard up the spiral staircase, jumping over the gates at the bottom and top of the stairs.

The lizard ran out on the upstairs balcony, but then it made a daring turn, running between my legs and down the stairs. With a war cry (it was not a scream), I followed, jumping the gates again to land on the main floor. Through the dining room and kitchen, I chased the lizard, swinging my weapon frequently, but never making contact with the offending creature. Eventually, the lizard tired of the game, ran out on the balcony, and disappeared out of sight.

My daughter slept through the entire experience. My son had the poor taste to laugh. When my husband arrived home, I told him of my brave assault on a menace to our family. He also laughed. The men in my family have poorly developed survival skills, but I refrained from chasing them with the golf club.

Until the day we moved, I continued to do battle with the lizards, though not always with a plastic club. I never won a fight, and no lizards were harmed during our skirmishes. The family continued to be amused by my efforts.