Thursday, August 13, 2009


Let me start by making something absolutely clear: I am petrified of snakes. Over-the-top; screaming, hysterical, pathologically afraid of snakes. Don’t try to talk me out of it. It won’t work. Nothing personal, I’m just afraid of snakes.

OK, so here goes the story. It was a Friday night, around 9 or 10. Kids asleep, I settle into a big, comfy chair to cuddle and get some long-overdue alone time with hubby. I’m pretty relaxed, it’s Friday, after all, nothing pressing over the weekend. So I’m looking forward to some kiss and cuddle time. Hubby is channel-surfing and what does he land on? “Snakes on a Plane”. There goes my nice, relaxed, affectionate evening. Hubby has learned, over many years, the HARD way, what the sight of snakes does to me. He doesn’t even try to take me off the ledge. Just a kiss good-night, with a helpful, “go take a Tylenol PM”, and a pat on the back.

The following Sunday, after church and brunch, we’re back at my parents’ house. Alex goes into the backyard with his grandpa. Suddenly, we hear Alex, “mommy, daddy, mommy, daddy” and hear some grunting from my father. We bolt outside and standing in my mother’s vegetable garden is my then-3-year-old, jumping up and down with excitement, pointing and shouting, “Look what PawPaw’s got!” There stands my 75 year old father, with about a 5-foot snake around his arm and shoulder.......(note to self: breathe deeply, you can do this)...then, as if that alone is not enough to cause me to nearly wet my britches, the snake reaches around and bites my dear old dad on the hand...blood, Alex screaming, jumping up and mother screaming at my father, my husband going over to help my dad. I grab both babies, the (then) 8 month old and the 14 month old, and run out the front door of my parents house and into the street, screaming over my shoulder at my husband to grab Alex and follow me. My brother follows me out to try to calm me down (worthless attempt). I’m hyperventilating, the babies are crying, struggling, kicking, thrashing...I start doing the same.

Finally, my mother comes out to tell me it’s safe to return to the house. I very tentatively go out on the porch to find Alex and there, in the corner of the back yard, are my son, my husband and my dad, still with the stupid snake. “We just wanted to let Alex watch is slither under the fence and say bye-bye.” Yeah, right. I told my husband in no uncertain terms that if he did not get Alex and leave with me right away, I would “slither” my own way home with the kids, and he’d be lucky to ever see us again. OK, so I survived that...for the most part.

Sunday evening, 5PM. As a reward for Alex finally becoming fully potty-trained, we talked him out of a rabbit as a pet and into turtles, figuring they’d be less messy and less maintenance. So Mommy and Alex head to the pet store. I feared they’d have snakes there, but figured they’d be in a certain section of the store that I could simply avoid. NOT! We walk into PetSmart and RIGHT THERE, by the cashier, is the SNAKE PIT! Alex is drawn to it, of course. I manage to grab him and half-drag, half-pull my 45 pounder away from the snake tanks, praying to find some nice, safe turtles very quickly. No such luck. We wander around for a few minutes, looking for turtles, and/or for a sales clerk to help us.

No turtles for sale at PetSmart. I am told I need to go to the reptile/snake place on SW 34th Street to find turtles...yeah, when monkeys fly out of my butt will I go in there. Alex is heart-broken, no turtles, so to appease his melodrama and screaming like a banshee, we get some fish and are trying to hustle out of the store before it closes at 6PM.

Now, as I said before the SNAKE PIT is right by the cashier, the only one cashier line open, and I get in line, a LONG line, because they’ve just announced they are closing in ten minutes. I am feeling anxious, but literally turn my back completely on the snakes, close my eyes, and pray for an express line to open up. Alex keeps wandering over there to the snakes. I’m trying to carry my gorilla-sized purse, three cups of fish, the new fish tank, the gravel, the accessories, the fish flakes, all while standing in the middle of my worst nightmare: 3 feet from a squirming, writhing, slithery pack of snakes. (FYI: I’m actually shaking right now just remembering).

I keep walking with my back turned, trying to drag Alex away from the snakes, and keep the fish from spilling and from losing my purse. Alex keeps going back. He’s now joined by a man with an older boy, who both seem to find great delight in my obvious distress (i.e., coronary). The boy appears to really want to educate Alex about these awful, hideous creatures, and Alex is lapping it up, oblivious to the onset of my mounting panic attack.

This continues for several minutes, me grabbing Alex, him running back, me panting and choking up and Alex laughing. Then, one of the snakes starts slithering up the side of the tank, belly-ing up, and that older boy taps the glass to point out something to Alex. The snake rears it’s head back and snaps or spits or strikes, or something, I don’t know what, because I’m now screaming and shaking and sobbing, having abandoned the fish, my purse and just grabbing Alex to run.

A very nice lady, a mom, comes over to me and asks if I need help....can she call someone for me, etc. One of the clerks comes over and gathers up all my stuff and moves it to the far, far register, away from the snakes. Alex finally sees Mommy totally going bat-bleep crazy, and decides he better shape up and help out.

They get me some water, hover over me, probably fearing they’ll need to call the cops or DCF on this wack job of a mom. I’m crying, hiccupping, shaking, sweating, beet-red, and finally manage to explain that it’s not my child I’m upset with, it’s my (I told you so) pathological fear of snakes. They offer to help me out to my car, again offer to call someone, everyone is being very nice and kind and understanding, but still looking at me like you would a rabid dog, or a mental-institute escapee.

We manage to make our purchases, get out of the snake pit, and, wouldn’t you know it, as we’re walking back to the car, me trembling along the sidewalk in front of PetSmart and towards Goody’s, fish and son in hand, the palm trees that are growing out of that center area (for those of you who know what and where I”m talking about), have a lot of roots coming up out of the ground, twisting, curling, curving around and about, looking like: you guessed it: SNAKES!

Naturally, last night, all I dreamed about were snakes....and this morning, my husband is playing some ska and reggae music from the St. Vincent carnival and on the cover of the CD shows the carnival parade, with people dressed up as a paper dragon, kind of like Chinese new year, which, to my tired, swollen and crusty eyes this morning, looked for all the world like a SNAKE.

That was just not my weekend, eh?