My son has a love for animals and a love of hording and also a weird mother (me). In an effort to instill a sense of wonder for the natural world, from time to time I have given him some interesting things I’ve come across for his collection. A snake skin. A skeletal snake tail. A few perfectly persevered dehydrated lizards. These are interesting things to study. These are also sort of creepy things for your mother to give you.
It was my ex-husband’s turn to have the boys for Thanksgiving, so I found myself childless in a warm climate where I came across two more desiccated lizards, which I carefully picked up by their stiff little tails and set aside to take home for my nine-year-old. Then it hit me—is this getting a little weird? At what point do my “here’s an interesting bit of nature to study” gifts cross over into “my mother brought me dead animals on a regular basis to keep in my bedroom” territory?
Am I intrinsically a little too weird? In my defense, I don’t bring my eldest child remnants of dead animals, because he really doesn’t appreciate them. Which actually is a problem—how do I give one child a gift that I know he will delight in and not have something for his brother? What’s the souvenir equivalent to a pair of dehydrated lizards? Isn’t that even weirder? “Here’s a chocolate palm tree because you don’t appreciate dead animals.” Might the whole chocolate versus desiccated lizard choice be somehow scarring even for the child that likes dead lizards? “I had to choose between candy and a skeleton, so I choose the ____.” I don’t see how either answer will look good in therapy.
Perhaps my desire to transport dehydrated carcasses across state lines is not as much a reflection of my weirdness as it is a reaction to the normality of my ex-husband. After all, if you wanted me to sum up why we got divorced in one sentence, “he didn’t appreciate my love of lizard carcasses” is a fair assessment. Not that I actually have any lizard carcasses of my own, I must add. It’s just that I do appreciate them and as a nine-year-old I did collect moose bones, deer antlers, and even moose poop. (The moose poop isn’t as weird as it sounds. My father lived in Alaska, and every souvenir shop sold figurines and jewelry made out of moose “nuggets.” I thought I was going to be a moose poop millionaire.)
I would have loved someone to bring my nine-year-old self lizard remains as a gift. I also would have loved someone to bring me a chocolate palm tree, a shiny rock, or just about anything that could be put in a box. I also loved boxes, for that matter. I know that my kid—who is eerily similar to myself as a child—will love any random item I bring him back from vacation. It doesn’t have to be a matching set of lizard carcasses. But if I don’t bring them back for him, what do I do with them? Throwing them in the garbage seems profane—they were once living creatures with little lizard hopes and dreams—yet I’m not sure I know them well enough to properly eulogize them at a reptile funeral in the backyard.
So tell me, oh internet, what do I do with these tiny perfectly preserved former lizard-children of God? Gift them to my son or bury them in the yard? I must note that the entire ethical dilemma that resulted from finding the carcasses (Carcai?) could have been avoided if only I hadn’t vacuumed. Save yourselves—avoid housework this Thanksgiving, or at the very least, find someone a little less weird than me to do it for you.
Copyright © 2022 Lara Lillibridge
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