Sweet 16

Good Monday world!

I know the entire world checks in here and reads about my small town life, so I just had to shout out there!

I had the thrill this weekend of going to Huntsville, Alabama to pick up my daughter. She has spent several weeks with her grandparents and was finally ready to come home. Coming home is bittersweet for her as she has friends there she had to leave behind. She has friends here too as well but it's sad when you leave even though you are always moving towards someone else. I wonder sometimes if we fail to realize most of our lives are moving "towards" and concentrate on what we may be "leaving".

I have a friend who has lost everything - E V E R Y T H I N G - to Ike including the little spot of land that he called home which is now gone due to erosion from the storm surge. So, even if he were able to rebuild, there is nothing currently to rebuild upon. Some say "too bad for picking a spot that is vulnerable" but all spots are vulnerable as anyone who has been through a tornado or an earthquake can testify. Our lives are fragile in the physical realm.

My daughter's request for her birthday was to attend the Dixie Reptile Show which was held at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She found out about this show from her friend Scott who owns Pet Addicts in Huntsville, Alabama. http://www.pet-addicts.com/ He has a huge inventory of unique and ...er...interesting reptile species and he has been a great educator for her interest.

I wondered as we negotiated our trip home and the stop at the show how a reptile is actually shown. Do they have little snake collars and leashes with little rings in which you walk/slither them around? Do they teach them to sit, down, heel or come on command? Would I be given the opportunity to see those less practiced snakes rebel and refuse to follow one or the other commands. Then, how do you discipline them? Perhaps you yank their little necks with that choke collar like you would a disobedient dog? What part is actually the neck?

The owner of the Dixie Reptile show http://www.dixiereptileshow.com/ was sweet enough to give us free entrance for Leiren's birthday, so her negotiation strategy was strengthened by the fact that entrance would be free. More thoughts as I drove from Huntsville to Birmingham - do the lizards have a "category" for each class. Is there a Hunter Class, A Vegetarian Class (the class of preference). Perhaps there was a "beginner Lizard class" where all the tiny little lizards would hang out knowing only a few commands and be excused more politely when they messed up.

I had this vision of people wearing little belts with pockets full of tiny mice, crickets, worms, maybe some lettuce for those preferable vegetarian varieties and tossing the "rewards" to the reptiles as they performed according to plan. I have trained and shown dogs and horses my entire life, but I simply could not imagine what I would find when I got to this reptile show. How would one know a good "Python Specimen" from a poor one? What are the conformation requirements for the different species of lizards?...oh the questions.

We arrived at the show about 15 minutes after it "started". As we entered into the auditorium all my questions were answered. A "reptile show" is an exhibition/sale of different reptilian species by different breeders and handlers. (Ladies, these are not men by the way - those are snakes of an entirely different species - sorry to mislead)

There was table after table after table of reptiles - snakes in clear shallow bowls with clear lids stacked in some cases five or six high - lizards in the same situation - one crocodile looking creature (owners get offended by the use of the word "crocodile" by the way - they are called "Caymans" or something like that - they just look like crocodiles). To see this creature through the glass, I found exciting. To take him home - not so exciting. And there were PLENTY of attendees at this show. I believe the stats said 47 exhibitors and there was a crowd in front of each table.

There were vendors of food - crickets, worms, special diets and...er...mice and rats. We "rescued" a tiny rat baby and justified it with the fact that we bought Gizmo (our overweight, spoiled and lonely rat) a friend for $1.00. Unfortunately, he was tiny and we did not realize until JUST THIS MORNING that he could crawl through the wires of Gizmo's cage. Somewhere in our little bungalow is one very happy, very free...baby rat! Unfortunately, he could become cat food instead of the designated reptile food he was originally intended. Sometimes even the best of intentions are just not so well planned!

My daughter came out of the entire thing the proud owner of a Crested Gecko (and you too can have this wonderful addition to your household reptilian population for the outstandingly low price of $60.00). It was her birthday present for which funding had been set aside, so it's not a complete waste of money- there's a commercial playing in my head right now - gas to show -$30.00/cost to get in - free/Gecko- $60.00/cage purchased later - $60.00 - smile on daughter's face - priceless. At some point the "damage from escaped rat to carpet and upholstery - unknown at this time!" There was one person who had three tiny (the size of a dime each) geckos of some variety. OH- they were cute and they were cheap. He was honest however and confessed their wildness and the difficulty at keeping them contained - "but they are really fun to watch run across the ceiling after they get out" he said. Oh well...cute isn't always the best bet!

I think I have the only 16 year old female child who has her heart set on become a "herpiterarian/reptile breeder/expert" whatever that is. I always thought that you just referred to ANYONE who likes slithering creatures as "eww" but now I have to change my opinion. As we headed home with the lizard, previously acquired Rainbow Frog, previously acquired Albino Pacman Toad, previously acquired scorpion named Sushi (I refer to him as future Sushi for my Shoesie if I ever see him outside of his cage), I could only imagine what lies ahead. She has her heart set on a "pet snake" but fortunately, she respects her Daddy's morbid fear to the point she knows it could result in bodily harm of someone. Maybe we will see her in the next Britney Spears video tossing one of these creatures at the star while she writhes all over the stage (that would be writhing in fear, not dancing people).

I have raised my daughter so far to be a creature of independent thinking who has a sense of responsibility. I have raised her to try to be intelligent and she has spent HOUR upon HOUR researching each new addition before bringing it home. She knows exactly how to care for, nurture (is that a word that applies to reptiles?) and contain (That's a word for reptiles!) each of them. I personally shared her affection for the reptilian world years ago but never expected to have them in my home. There are those who e-mail and call her with their care questions from near and far as she has participated in forums and blogs that reveal the knowledge she has learned...if only she did the same with her math! She has become a part of a network of people and many are kind enough to take the time to educate her further regarding this or that species and it's "practicality" as far as owning it. There were many at the show who were thrilled to see her and I was...well...just a mom, hanging in the wings, watching her enjoy her world - a world she is beginning to explore that only includes me as mom- hanging in the wings.

Where does one mom go from this point? She's 16 and I am learning to let her be her own person. I am no longer her buddy- I am her Mom - guide - nurturer - supporter. My hope is that she always knows no matter where she goes, I will always be home. I gave up the hope of being "cool" the first time she talked back to me. So, you take what you can get.

Sweet 16 - is rather bittersweet for Mom.


Nancy M. said...

Happy Birthday Leiren! She sounds like a wonderful young lady.

Jeannelle said...

A very happy 16th birthday to your daughter! Yes, they grow and change and hopefully, eventually, daughters and moms exist as friends.