The Universe Is Listening

The one that got away...
The one that got away…

Most people I know can quickly point to a creature in the animal kingdom that creeps them out. Some people are freaked out by rodents, but I will happily rescue a vole or mouse that tumbles into our window wells. My mother and sisters cannot stand moths while I operate a catch and release program for them in my home. Some may bristle at bats or shrivel over scorpions or cringe at centipedes. Like most people, the members of our household are not immune to animal phobias. Channeling their inner Indiana Jones, both Steve and Luke are terrified of snakes. Joe and I come unhinged over spiders. I once asked Luke why he despised snakes and he replied with great exasperation, “Mom…they have NO legs.” He then asked me why I hate spiders. I told him it’s because they have EIGHT legs. I’ve always thought the four of us became a family for a good reason. When a wolf spider the size of my palm waltzes onto our porch, Steve saves the day. When a snake appears in our basement, I collect it in a plastic bin and toss it back outside. Luke kills the spiders Joe finds, and Joe walks ahead on hikes to make sure there are no snakes in Luke’s path. It just works out.

Tonight as I was making dinner, Steve was in the basement crawling over and rifling through various tubs in the storage room looking for the boys’ ski boots. After a while he appeared in the kitchen with the good news that he had found them. He then came a bit closer, and I could tell something was not quite right. He leaned in and spoke in a hushed voice.

“I found a snakeskin on the floor in the storage room.”

I looked at him. The news didn’t surprise or frighten me, but I know Steve well enough to know that this was not an easy discovery for him.

“Are you sure?” I asked cautiously, eyeing him for signs of an impending freak out. There were none.

“Yes.”

“Where did you find it?”

“I moved the tub, and it was on the floor.”

“Don’t tell Luke,” I warned before continuing. “Do you think it was a newer shed? Could it have been there for a while?” I scanned my brain trying to think of the last time I had been in that room. Could it have been there then?

“Maybe,” he replied.

“I will go check it out after dinner.”

I started laughing to myself. It just figured. Steve would be the one to make that discovery, just as it was completely natural that I was the one who came within inches of the the biggest wolf spider EVER in our window well a month ago. (Oh my holy hell that thing was creepy. I took a photo of it once I was safely inside and it was so big that its eyes glowed red in the camera flash. No lie. But, I digress.)

After dinner, I led the way downstairs to find the offending object. Sure enough. There on the floor of the storage room was a shriveled snakeskin from a snake approximately eighteen inches in length (twenty four inches if you have Steve’s eyes) resting on the remnant carpet. We stood there staring at it before surveying the room, trying to imagine where the damn thing was now. I took a photo of the crinkled skin and started laughing again. The whole idea that there is a snake in my house is ludicrous. I’m not living in southeast Asia. Holy crap on a cracker. This is suburbia! I picked up the skin, gave it a once over, and as surreptitiously as possible carted it out to the garage trash can. I told Steve it was from a garter snake. He, of course, required proof. When I produced a photo of a garter snake on my iPhone, he agreed with my assertion with visible relief. As scary as it is for him to imagine there might be a snake slinking around our house, there must be some comfort in knowing it’s not venomous. I imagine right about now Steve is wishing he wasn’t allergic to cats because this would be a perfect time to unleash one in the basement.

On Halloween, we will have lived in this home on the open space for thirteen years. In that time, we’ve only encountered one snake inside our home (the rattlesnake in the garage doesn’t count) and that was the one I deftly removed. Still, this snakeskin in the storage room advances so many questions. Could the skin have arrived (as Steve hopes) pre-shed and attached to the bottom of one of our camping bins? If not, where did the snake come from? When did it shed its skin? Is it still alive and gliding silently around our basement somewhere? If so, where does it hang out and where does it get its water? How creepy is it going to be when we’re moving out and we find it or its carcass somewhere in that room? How much therapy is Luke going to need if he’s downstairs building Legos and it slithers by? Can a child sue a parent for non disclosure of a reptile?

This morning, as I was sitting in rush hour traffic on my way to the new house to begin Day Three of what will undoubtedly become a biblical, forty days and forty nights of painting, I was thinking about how dull my days have become. Tonight, there is a snake in the basement.  Apparently I have got to stop thinking so much. The universe is listening.

My Very Blonde Moment

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know I’m not blonde.”  ~Dolly Parton

A very obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat.
An obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat. Reptiles can breathe and read.

I have been busily working to prepare for a garage sale this weekend. I despise garage sales. The only thing I loathe more than having a garage sale is having a house filled with stuff I am dying to get rid of. And this is how I’ve gotten myself into the predicament of needing to be involved in a garage sale in the first place. For about a month now I’ve been taking a good, long look at our closets, cupboards, cabinets, closets, and drawers. I’ve boxed up books, dishes, toys, and crafting supplies and hauled it out to our staging area on one side of the garage. This week it was finally time to involve the boys. Together we attacked their bedrooms and their playroom, spending hours finding lost game pieces, reuniting action figure collectibles, and tossing out random things none of us could explain.

As we were down in the basement playroom today, I pulled open the blind to let more light in. When I did, I noticed in the window well a small garter snake lifting its head up and checking me out. Spiders I can’t stand but snakes fascinate me, and this one was downright cute (if a snake can be cute). I quickly called Joe to come check him out. We stood at the window staring at the little guy until he spooked, probably because of all our gawking and pointing, and slithered his way down into the hole under the rocks where he resides. When he was out of sight, a thought popped into my head and before I could stop to evaluate it fully I opened my mouth and it spilled out.

“Do reptiles breathe air?” I asked my biology-enthusiast son.

The minute I heard my words I realized how truly asinine I sounded. But alas…it was too late. It was already out there and there were no take backs. My son was staring at me as if I had seven heads.

“Ummm…Mom? Every living creature on this planet breathes air,” he said just before erupting with laughter. Nice kid.

“Well…” I stammered, searching for an explanation as to what had caused my temporary lack of common sense and my absent third-grade science skills. “I’m TIRED” was all I could come up with.

“What? Do you think reptiles are aliens? All we’ve got is oxygen, Mom. It’s kind of necessary for life. That’s pretty basic science.”

“I know. I know,” I said, trying to recover. “I just wanted to see if you knew the answer. I was testing you,” I answered, hoping to cover my tracks.

“You think your son who was obsessed with dinosaurs for years doesn’t know that reptiles breathe air?” he asked. “I know a thing or two about reptiles, Mom.”

He then ran upstairs to tell his brother what I had said because there’s nothing better than pointing out to your sibling what a boob your mother is. The minute he left I looked back out the window. The snake had reappeared, its small head held high up in the air in indignation. I swear I saw him roll his black-slitted eyes at me.

As the two boys spent the afternoon having random laughs at my expense, I tried to be self-effacing and calm about the flub so as not to fuel the fire any further. Throughout the day I texted them random comments about air, and I joked along with them and laughed too. I mean, my question was pretty ridiculous. There was no denying it. And having a mini-meltdown about their hysterical laughter was not going to make the case against me any less damning. So I rolled with it. I had no other options. But, man oh man, admitting and accepting my own idiocy is a lot of work.

It’s humbling when my brain takes a quick vacation. And it is happening to me more frequently as I age. I walk into a room and stand there trying to determine why I am there in the first place. I start one task and then like a Labrador Retriever chasing a squirrel I’m off in another direction only to realize hours later that I never finished that first task. Today’s brainless statement was likely induced by a lack of sleep coupled with deficient nutrition after ingesting a greasy burger and fries for lunch. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself because, honestly, my mind is not usually that vacuous, and I refuse to think I’m losing it this young. I mean, I do know that there is no life without breath. Guess today I needed a reminder that sometimes life is a bit more worth living when you’re laughing so hard at yourself that you can’t breathe.