I’ve seen my future. I’m a senile old woman who gets kicked out of the nursing home because I keep scaring the other elderly guests with my shouts of imagined wildlife creeping across my bed.
Let me get you up to speed. Last year, after a long 24-hour standoff with a 7-inch rodent in my bedroom, I (successfully) worked my way through some serious post-traumatic stress episodes:
“Jim, did you hear that scratching noise?! No, wait, there it is again! Wait, what?! Well, stop scratching your leg that loudly. Who does that?!”
(See “Rat In My Bedroom: A True Story in Three Acts” for a dramatic re-enactment & medical justification for bitchy wife comments; option rights still available).
A few months after that, I found a rattlesnake curled up nice-and-sweet in a small bush 10 feet from our back door. Luckily, our neighbor’s gardener was quick to respond to my shouts. He “tamed it into a box” (and when I say tame, I mean “used blunt force with a shovel”). Ah, canyon life.
Last week, as my meeting with my CTO ended, my daughter ran screaming into the house. “I tried to pick a snake’s tail. I thought it was a cherry tomato!”
Saying nothing of the tomato/invertebrate confusion, I remembered my husband’s pleas that I not pass down my hysteria for wildlife to our children. As calmly as I could, I asked, “Was it making a noise as you grabbed it?” She shook her head. “It’s black with green stripes. Eewww, I can’t believe I touched a snake!” she replied. I forced my voice to sound airy, as if I was discussing my plans to invade Canada, Sarah Palin-style. “Okie dokie, then, let’s go get this snake out of our garden so we can pick our tomatoes.” I was sweating as I reached for the broom out of the closet, smiling big and weird, like a freaky clown that shows up uninvited to your birthday party.
Well, long story short. It turned out to be a very scared garter snake that, with some vigorous broom-shaking, fell from the tomato plant and slithered off to the neighbor’s yard (sorry Patti…) My daughter went back to picking vegetables while I read interesting snake facts aloud from my laptop. I told my kids to call me Indiana Momma. I’d licked my fears about nature.
Until that night.
My husband was away on a business trip. Around 2 am, I woke up out of a deep sleep. Why was I up? I looked around the room and saw the back patio lights on. The lights. I’d forgotten to turn them off. I walked through the dark house, towards the bank of light switches. Then, I saw it. The back door was not closed. All night long, the door from the patio to the house… the only barrier between me and wild… was wide open and inviting.
I nearly peed my pants.
No, I wasn’t afraid of burglars. I was afraid of snakes. They were noctural, for god’s sake. They do their traveling while humans sleep. Yes, I immediately jumped on the coffee table and surveyed the room. I went through my snake facts:
They couldn’t hear me yelling at them,
They were as afraid of me as I was of them (which meant they were probably peeing in a corner under the sofa),
They would only respond to vibrations
So I started stomping. I jumped off the table and stomped around the room, pausing briefly to listen for the sound of a rattle. Living Room? All clear. Den? All clear. Kitchen? All clear. Kids Playroom? Well… this is where I lost my mind.
My kids own two toys:
A large smiling green python stuffed animal (won at the Santa Monica Pier)
A cylindlical baby rattle (filled with beads)
I swear, it sounds EXACTLY like a snake!
Taken alone, these are innocuous toys. Together, they are the devil’s creation put on earth to string out high-strung mothers at 3 am.
As I stomped in the playroom, I knocked into the loft (which holds all the kids stuffed animals) and damn it if that python snake didn’t drop down the pile AT THE EXACT TIME the beads in the rattle spilled down to another level. Couldn’t make it up, even if I wanted to. Why my kids had their baby rattle toy out-and-about, I’ll never know. But leave it at this -- At this point, I did pee my pants. For real.
Eventually, I calmed down and went to back to bed.
I didn’t have a snake in my house… Just a few bats in my belfry.