Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fear Factor

Several years ago my two young daughters and I were laying on my bed one Saturday night. We were all comfy in our pajamas, we had our books in hand, the room was quiet and we were ready for a mother-daughter read-in. As we began reading, our cat begin meowing. It was a soft meow at first, which caused me no alarm as she continually wanted attention and I thought she was just demanding some petting. We all ingored her and went on with our reading. The meowing became louder and more relentless. She then began meowing with such a strange tone that it was really getting on my nerves. Exasperated, I put down my book, yelled “Sadie, shut up!” and took a quick glance her way. The visual of that night still sticks with me today. Our cat was batting her paw at a snake on my bedroom floor. This was what the frantic meowing had been about. Now, considering that the bedroom is on the second level of my house, and I am not in the habit of bringing snakes inside, I had no idea how the snake came to be on my bedroom floor. All I knew at that moment is that I was deathly afraid of snakes, and I would never be able to work up the nerve to catch it and remove it. I was already mentally preparing to move my family to a hotel to live until the snake was caught.

I quickly decided that my only chance at removing the snake was to coax one of my girls to do it for me. They were young and had not yet developed that horrible fear of snakes that many of us have. They still thought snakes were cool and interesting, and I was hoping that I could take advantage of their innocence. However, I knew that the only way my plan was going to work was that I would not be able to show any fear myself. I had to make it seem like it would be fun for one of them to catch the snake and carry it outside. I couldn’t allow them to see the absolute terror in my face or else they would potentially freak out on me, leaving us with our only other option: moving.

So, I nonchalantly called for Rachel, my oldest daughter, who was maybe 8 or 9 at the time, to “pick up the snake and take it outside where it will be happier.” I used my calmest voice. My verbal demeanor was that of “I would do it, but I’m a little busy right now, can you do it?” The same kind of voice I would have used to ask her to get something out of the fridge. No big deal, just get it done.

She obediently responded to my request and went to pick up the snake. I, of course, had to see with my own eyes that it was truly leaving our house, so I followed her down the stairs. Just as we reached the kitchen, the snake began wrapping it’s tail around her wrist. “Mom……”, she said in a tentative voice, “I’m scared, I can’t keep holding onto it.” Knowing that Rachel was my only hope, I shot her a quick, “don’t be silly, it’s not going to hurt you, just keep going.” I was praying that she could make it to the patio door before she panicked and dropped the snake on the floor, which would send me into my own episode of Fear Factor. I adopted the philosophy of “if I don’t show any fear, neither will she.” It was my only option.

I am pleased to report that many years later we are still living in the same house. Rachel made it to the patio door that night with the snake wrapped around her wrist, unraveled it from it’s grasp, and threw it into the backyard. She had accomplished a feat that for me at that moment was on the same magnitude as saving humanity.

Rachel still has no fear of snakes. In fact, she has a pet snake, which, ironically, is living in the same house with us right now. As for me, I gaze into it’s aquarium and look at it, but never touch it and never plan to. We occasionally talk about “the night of the snake” and laugh about it now. To this day none of us have any idea how it got into our house and into our second floor bedroom.


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