“Do not take life too seriously — you will never get out of it alive.” Elbert Hubbard
As children, while we romped through the tall grass creating our forts, my little brother and I often would come in contact with nests of harmless baby garter snakes. Since I was older and bigger, I couldn’t resist teasing my brother by chasing him with a squirming snake. Heaven’s knows where the snake would end up, as Mom even found a baby snake in my pants pocket. Sadly, mom had not checked my pockets BEFORE she washed my pants. I was always looking for snakes.
But then we moved from Washington to California where the snakes became rattlesnakes. Our yard now was surrounded by avocado and lemon groves and outcroppings of huge rocks where rattlesnakes liked to sun themselves. Mom and dad warned us how dangerous and poisonous rattlesnakes are, so we had to stay clear of them if we saw one. Luckily for my brother, that ended my interest in snakes, and my curiosity turned to fear.
Then, life changed as I grew up, married, moved back to Washington, and became a mother of two children. My daughter, Heather, was terrified of garter snakes. Heather’s hysterical scream pierced the neighborhood, when a snake accidentally made the mistake of popping out in front of her foot. I’m sure the snake was more upset than Heather. Heather would run screeching all the way home. I would think something was horrifically wrong when I heard her.
But my son, Mathew, as a toddler, was curious about snakes. I squelched my fear of garter snakes when they slithered out, as I was gardening. I had to pull out my long lost memories of playing with snakes so I could show my son how to pick up or handle a snake. I couldn’t have him be afraid of snakes! We found snakes mating, hiding, sunning, and my son loved examining all of them. But, I was always there to help him and talk with him about the snake until he started school.
When Matt started Kindergarten he would walk home in the afternoon with Heather. One day, I was on the phone talking with a friend when Heather arrived home alone. Concerned, I asked “Where’s Matt?” and Heather replied, “Oh, he found a snake… ICK!” Unconcerned about her brother, Heather went straight to the refrigerator for a glass of grape juice that she was busy drinking.
Suddenly, the light bulb popped on in my head, as I thought, “Uh-oh! I have always been around when Matt found a snake. He wouldn’t bring it home to show mom… would he?” As soon as the thought cleared my mind, I looked up while still on the phone. Who should appear walking down the hall toward me holding his books in one arm, and a large snake dangling from his other hand, but Matt. Heather took one look at her brother and yelled “SNAKE!” as her grape juice shot all over my face and down the front of me. As the grape juice dripped off of me, I not so subtlety growled, “Matt, take that snake outside, NOW!”
So, while I’m wildly motioning for Matt to take the snake outside, what does Matt do? He walks over to our sliding glass door and has to make a decision. The problem is he doesn’t know what to put down to open the glass door… the snake or the books. Of course he put the snake down… wouldn’t you?
Now, I had frantic visions of the snake slithering off to hide under my furniture or to crawl down the heating vent only to crawl out and surprise me when I least expected it. In the meantime, Heather ran to her bedroom to hide. I’m now screeching…”Noooooo… Matt pick-up the snake!” but I forgot to take the phone away from my mouth. My shrill wail probably just pierced my friend’s ear drum, but I could hear her chuckling…ok, she was rolling on the floor laughing at the chaos taking place in my house. Plus, Matt stood there with a stunned expression on his face as he didn’t understand why I was screaming at him. I hadn’t acted like this before… WHY NOW? The joys of having children!
Miracles do happen. The snake may have temporarily experienced shell shock from all of the shrieking, or it was contemplating its’ get-away while trapped in unfamiliar territory, so it lay perfectly still on the carpet while Mathew opened the sliding glass door. Matt then gently picked up the snake to carry it outside and down the porch stairs to set it down near the wood pile, where it instantly escaped to a safe hiding place. I’m sure that snake has one heck of a story to tell its’ buddies!
“Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” Will Rogers