She wished she could be like that, big and strong and scary instead of just strange and small and “special”. Old Terra, how she hated being “special”.
‘Old Terra’ is not commonly used is polite conversation, but is an accepted expression of either frustration or gratitude, depending upon the context.
The use of ‘Old Terra’ as an oath/curse stems from nostalgia among the first generation colonists, who often missed the comforts and familiarity of Earth. After the discovery of the Pollen, and its toxic effect on Earth-born flora and fauna, the oath became imbued with the anger and sadness of the population.
The colonists were angry because the Terrestrial Expansion Division’s (TED) surveys had somehow missed, or ignored, the danger represented by the Pollen, and sad because so many died because of it.