Touch of Spice: Animal house
Ever since I couldn’t keep a strong grasp on the foot-long water snake startled awake by the lawnmower, the girls have bemoaned the fact that they don’t have a pet snake, belittled my snake-catching skills and basically called me a sissy.
OK, my girls are 5 and 7 years old. They don’t know what a sissy is, but I could see that sentiment in their eyes when they learned that I had him in my hands, but couldn’t manage to hold on long enough for them to get a closer look.
So, on a crisp Thursday morning at Loudy-Simpson Park, when I saw a woman take a hopping side step and heard her say “snake,” I darted forward and, with grace and finesse, bravely captured the little thing (others might tell it a little differently, but this is my story).
With the smelly thing wrapped around my hand, I went running to find my girls, who were admiring a construction crew not far away. That’s a lie. The girls weren’t that impressed with the crew (sorry, guys), they were fascinated with the corkscrew-like device that was drilling holes in the ground (and stirring up the snakes).
But, they instantly lost interest when they saw what I had. Five-year-old Nikki – who spends weekends hunting up bugs and grasshoppers for pets – immediately wanted to hold it. She giggled when it wrapped itself around her small fist and thought for sure its darting tongue meant it wanted a kiss.
As my very small, beaming daughter approached the crew, carrying her new pet, one of the guys jumped back and grabbed a hammer.
Obviously not a fan of snakes, but in the face of a 5-year-old’s delight, I would’ve faked it – if only to save myself from the merciless teasing the rest of the crew was already delivering.
Our next stop was Grandma’s – a fact that I should have dreaded more given what we were bringing, but I had a hard time doing so after Grandpa helped Nikki dig up earthworms and encouraged her to take them home in her pockets.
Halfway to the car, I heard my name and turned around to see another snake being ferried my direction.
Perfect! (I really did think that). Now each of the girls could have her own. Of course, Katie wanted a snake of her own, but she wouldn’t even consider touching it, so it was tucked in her purse (by Nikki) and that’s where it lived the rest of its hours. (That’s what writers call “foreshadowing,” but I’m betting you already guessed the outcome of this particular story).
When I picked up the girls eight hours later, I was met with the sad fact that neither snake had lasted the day (Another lie. I certainly wasn’t sad about it, and the girls were over it). One of the lucky snakes (his name, ironically, was Jake, despite the fact that I explained to Nikki that I couldn’t tell whether they were boys or girls) darted through the grass to freedom. The other I found lying belly-up in the driveway. There were no signs of distress, so my assumption was excessive handling plus heat plus desire resulted in another form of escape.
Nikki, of course, thought he was just taking a little nap. I had to explain that snakes didn’t sleep on their backs with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out.
I should have expected the question that Nikki asked that night.
“Is there a place you can go to pick out any kind of pet you want?”
I told her yes, but they were far, far away.
She asked where we got our dog, Buddy, and I told her that I’d ordered him off the Internet, which I had. He was adopted from a pet shelter on the Front Range.
Nikki was shocked.
“You ordered that fat thing?” she asked incredulously.
Wryly, I explained to her that his picture wasn’t an exact representation of the real thing.
She didn’t get it.
I told her that was a good reason to avoid Internet dating.
She didn’t get that either.
I told her, for the time being, to stick with snakes.
Her “silly mommy,” was the end of our discussion.
I’m sure we’ll pick up where we left off when she’s about 15.
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