Last year my older son was in 4th grade. His teacher is very much a science/math/psychology person. His classroom is filled with very unusual pets–tarantulas, mice, lizards, and snakes. I had to sign a permission slip. Keep in mind that none of the pets are poisonous or capable of doing more than maybe breaking the skin. The children who CHOOSE to interact with them (THEY ARE NEVER FORCED!) are taught how not to upset them, and if one is found to be the least bit not child friendly, he removes it from the classroom immediately. I feel for his wife. She must get all the mean ones at home.

All of this said, I was more than a little surprised at how my son took to these creatures. I honestly believe that his experience with them positively changed his life.

During the last weeks of school I chaperoned a class field trip, and tried to help out in the classroom for things like field day when it gets pretty crazy around there. I needed the break and Mr. Ramsey needed the help. Now anyone who knows me well, knows that a snake is a sure-fire way to get rid of me forthwith. During those last weeks of school, something changed. I think the fear I was facing in my own home pushed me to face other fears with an open spirit. For example, my ability to write and publish this stuff on the Internet–major hurtle now cleared. When my 10 year old son brought me a snake and said “here mommy, see, it won’t hurt you; just touch it” I was more willing to follow HIS lead than ever before in my life.

So yes, I got OK with pet snakes that I know to be harmless and kid friendly, and don’t live in MY home. But something happened that I don’t really even understand. There is one particular snake in that classroom, her name is Sweetpea. She is a red boa, with black circles. Try not to vomit as I tell you she’s actually very beautiful. I think she’s pretty young because she’s long but not very big around.

It wasn’t that I bonded with “snakes”; I bonded with THAT snake. How very bizarre. I figured out quickly that people now think I’m even more weird than they had originally thought. I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I bonded with Sweetpea in the way a person bonds with a pet dog or cat. I actually missed her over the summer. I went to visit her yesterday and was really glad to see her. Yeah, I’m a freak. You don’t have to say it. : )

To put my bond with Sweetpea into perspective, I must briefly tell the story of the end of the last day of school. They did awards in the classrooms rather than in huge groups in the gym. I came into the day a little overwhelmed and stressed out. I was very glad to be out of the house. I picked a spot in the far back corner of the room to watch my son and his friends receive their awards for jobs very well done. One of the girls had Sweetpea hanging around her neck and went to put her away when awards were starting. Parents were streaming in. I spontaneously asked her to hand me Sweetpea.

That was the hour that I learned the true meaning of the term “sneaky snake” : ) Boas like to squeeze, and believe it or not it can be a little soothing–like a mini-massage. She wraps herself around my arm and then seeks heat because she has none of her own. Well, she found heat alright. She’s long enough to be in more than one place at a time. Her head and her body don’t seem to do the same thing at the same time. While Sweetpea was wrapped around and “massaging” my arm, her cute little head sneaked down my shirt!!!! The rest of her long body quickly followed along.

At this point awards were underway, the room was quiet, all focus on Mr. Ramsey. Snakes are fast and agile creatures. She found her warmth and was quite happy to hang out and play in it. In a matter of seconds she was all the way inside my shirt and slithering circles around my mid section with her little tongue tickling me. I had to resist giggling. There was no way I was going to get her out without totally blowing his awards ceremony and perhaps causing some people to faint or vomit, or both. The thing is, I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t disgusted. I was totally aware of how bizarre those parents thought I was for even having her in my hands to begin with. I got some looks and comments, and I didn’t care. I don’t care.

I don’t know that I will ever understand why I bonded with THAT snake. I don’t know that I require an explanation. A grown woman can’t just waltz into a 4th grade classroom where no student belongs to her and play with a reptile just for fun. So I will have to let Sweetpea be a fond memory. I’m not going out to buy a snake. It’s was HER. She changed something in me and I don’t think I necessarily have to know how or why.

Life lessons come from the most unexpected places. I learned to not resist…


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