Isn't it crazy how something as simple as a picture can take you back in time? That's what happened for me this week. I was skimming through posts on Facebook. A friend had posted a picture of the snake that had taken shelter under the top of their grill. It was by all accounts not a big snake. The colors were pretty. And in that exact second that I looked at that picture, I shuddered.
I shuddered because I was transported from my current age of 46 back to a time when I was six. My grandparents had taken me to the zoo in Des Moines. I loved this place. There was a water fountain that was shaped like the head of a rhino. There were big and small animals. And best of all there were opportunities to interact with some of the smaller animals. One particular day I had the chance to get to know snakes. I was excited. This I remember clearly. There were probably twenty of us taking part in this hands on experience.
The zoo people told us what to expect. They asked us to leave some distance between us. And one by one we all got our very own small snake to hold. We were instructed as to the best and most respectful way to hold the snakes. They were smooth and wiggly. We were having a great time. And that's when it happened. A little girl in the row behind me was startled by the snake flicking it's tongue at her. She dropped her snake and screamed. And from then on it was like a nasty chain reaction. Her snake started skimming across the floor. Up over the sandaled feet of the kid next to her. Yep, he dropped his snake and screamed, too.
And it went from bad to worse. In seconds there was pandemonium. Lots of kids screaming. Lots of parents and grandparents yanking their kids to safety. Many little snakes probably looking for a safe place to hide. The zoo workers were frantically using these grabber devices to catch the terrified snakes. I was saved by my grandparents and the fear of snakes was instilled in me.
Fast forward to the library when Gracie was about five. This wonderful veterinarian who rescues injured animals gave a presentation. He brought with him several of these hurt and healed animals. One of the animals was a 14 foot python. Maybe longer. The vet slowly would weave his way through the aisles of children and parents to let them touch and love these animals. And here came my chance to show my fearless little woman child that her mama was strong. I thought about leaving to use the restroom. Or maybe he would just pass me by. And then Gracie reached out and touched this enormous snake. Mama, it's beautiful. Smooth, too. As this point I'm hyperventilating inside for sure. And at the same time trying to appear calm on the outside. Nodding my head like a fool. Trying not to open my mouth because we have been told to keep quiet out of respect for the animals. And if I open my mouth a scream will for sure escape.
And then the vet says in a calm and soothing voice, mom, she did it and so can you. He continues, I see you are afraid. The snake is more afraid of you than you are of it. Not possible, is what I say. And then he encourages me once again and I touch the snake. I'm not sure what happened after that. I think I blacked out. No I didn't. It was smooth. The vet said good job, mom. You made a good impression on your daughter today. I said, actually, she made a great impression on me.
Am I over this snake business? No. As evidenced by my reaction to the post this week. But this experience reminded me to take risks and face fears. As the saying goes, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.