I was raised by a father who never wanted to conform, and yet if you read this about him: white male, Southern, Republican, Episcopalian, banker, suburban home, Master's degree... You would likely think he was the ultimate conformist.
You would be wrong.
We have a photo somewhere of him smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer while on water skiis.
He also loved a good dirty joke, a good vodka-tonic, and he hated pretentious people. He would have thought this was funny:
I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree because I am a lot like my dad.. except I don't drink, smoke, or tell many dirty jokes. I do not like pretentious people, however, and in these days of political correctness, I find a lot of rant material everywhere.
I say all this to preface my story of the week I had last week, where I wrestled with what to do about a stressful situation here at home. I tried to be politically correct and compassionate and I ended up stressing out to the point where I thought my head would explode.
Last Monday night, my son brought home a baby ball python in a plastic box. I guess it was a small terrarium? Not sure. Anyway, for the purposes of this story I'm going to call it a box because that's easier to type. I walked into his room to tell him good night and saw the snake, and screamed.
Michael laughed, then looked disgusted. "He's just a baby Mom. He's my new pet."
"Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?! What on earth makes you think I will allow a SNAKE in my home as a PET?" I countered, shaking.
For the next 5 minutes we had an argument about it. Michael looked so stricken when I suggested we set it free in some nice woods about 10 miles from my house, that I agreed to "think about" letting him keep it.
I thought about it, for about 24 hours. I also did research on how to care for a ball python, what they eat, how big they get, etc. In the end, I concluded that I was not going to be a politically correct mom, I was going to be the mom who was raised by Elva [a/k/a Annie Oakley] Hasty Thompson.
Jerry the snake had to go.
I didn't follow my first instinct, which was to blast the snake with my .38 or run over it with the car. No, I told Michael he needed to find a new home for Jerry.
All last week, I went into the guest room about once an hour and checked to make sure the 8 lb. weight I put on top of the box was still there, and Jerry was safely confined. I also put strapping tape on the box lid, to make sure the snake didn't push up the box lid. Years ago, my ex-sister in law's brother kept a pet snake at home and it got loose all the time and the family would find it curled up in dresser drawers. Snakes do not like to be confined.
When I was about 12 I was in the mountains with the family of my friend Joanne. We were with her stepsister and family. So there were 3 little boys and 4 grownups in a station wagon, driving around in the mountains near Gatlinburg. Suddenly the car stopped and the dad got out and picked up a snake that was lying in the road. The little boys cheered as they decided to take the snake home and put it in a terrarium. I do not recall what kind of snake it was but the dad decided it was not poisonous or harmful. Nonetheless, I was terrified. The snake was placed in a brand new casserole dish, in the back of the station wagon, and the lid was placed on the dish and we continued on the way back to Knoxville. It was a cold night. A little while later, I felt something nudge my right thigh and tried to ignore it. I felt another nudge. I was sitting next to Joanne on the "rumble seat" that folded down in the old station wagons. I asked the grownups to turn on the car light for a moment, and stood up and looked, and there was the snake, curled under my thigh. I screamed and leaped into the front seat of the car. Fortunately, the dad who was driving didn't wreck the car. I was shaking and crying the rest of the way home.
My parents were startled when I told them what happened.
Years later, when my parents lived in a house on Melton Hill Lake near Knoxville, my mother saw a long snake in the driveway one afternoon. She went in the house and grabbed her pistol and shot the snake numerous times. Then she made herself a drink and waited on Dad to get home from work and dispose of the body. That, I was taught, was the correct way to approach a snake sighting: grab a pistol and blast away.
So my history with snakes has to do with fear and trauma.
Friday afternoon, Michael came home with a live mouse in a small box and informed me that "Jerry" needed to eat. Michael paid $4.58 for a food mouse. The thought of putting that snake and a mouse in a large cardboard box just made my stomach churn. I called a reptile rescue group. They said they would come get the snake and find a lovely adoptive home for him. Michael refused to entertain the idea.
I had to get ugly about it. Finally, Michael found a friend who would keep the snake but allow Michael to come see him.
Michael is lucky I am a small women and completely incapable of killing anything larger than a bug. Nonetheless, until he took the snake out of here on Friday, I was sitting here pondering ways to kill the snake. I knew Elva would approve, if she knew, which she didn't. That's another reason the snake had to go. Mom knew I was upset about something but I couldn't bring myself to tell her about the snake. She would have been freaked out.
After another argument on Friday afternoon, I told Michael if I ever see another snake in my house, ever, I will not say a word. I will just immediately KILL IT.
How can that be avoided? Just don't bring one in my house.
About 4:15 Friday, Michael finally put the snake and the mouse and a large cardboard box on the passenger seat of his car, with me watching, and then took out the snake to hold in his lap while driving down the road. Noting the look of horror on my face, he flashed me a peace sign, and drove off.
Now, the politically correct parent would have handled the whole situation a lot better, I've no doubt.
I decided living with snake stress -- which was interfering greatly with my peace of mind -- was too much. I was not going to be politically correct. So be it.
One day I will laugh about this. Not any time soon, however...