Snakes in Maine

Did you know that Maine has no venomous snakes? We were informed of this tidbit while house-hunting two summers ago, as if that bit of knowledge would suddenly cause us to say, “Oh, well in that case…we’ll take this house right now!”  Being a natural skeptic, I simply nodded my head at the realtor and smiled real pretty-like, reserving my sarcasm for the privacy of our car.

I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could absolutely know whether or not poisonous snakes exist in a state filled with vast amounts of wilderness. Not only that but, how exactly, does one keep a snake from entering the state? Is there some kind of sentinel standing watch at the border of Maine and New Hampshire? “Can I see your papers please?” The visiting venomous snake pulls out some forged papers claiming that he is a common milk snake and hands it to the snake sentinel. “I’m sorry, sir…your photo looks nothing like you, you’ll have to turn around. We don’t like your kind in Maine.”

I subjected David to a relentless monologue about Maine and snakes after the realtor provided that weird (suspicious) piece of trivia. I have a hard time letting things go and, just as the ride settled into a comfortable silence, I’d ask, “So…do snakes just stop at the state line? Is there some invisible poisonous snake-repelling force field?” or, “Maybe the poisonous ones choose to avoid Maine. So….what? Maine’s not good enough?” I huffed, “Those elitist jerks.” We tend to engage in these types of conversations on road trips. Mostly because we’re slightly twisted and also because we make each other laugh with ridiculous scenarios.

Have you ever visited Maine? The first thing that you see as you cross the state line is a giant sign proclaiming that this is a state that lives life the way it should be lived. Evidently, whoever decided that living “The Way Life Should Be” also decided that life shouldn’t involve venomous snakes.

This morning I walked out of the house to find all three children huddled at the side of the driveway. Upon hearing the screen door shut, they all looked up and began talking simultaneously in a mixture of unintelligible squeals and excited sentences punctuated by high-pitched voice cracking. “Wait…what did you say?” Joe stood and ran toward me holding his hand out, “We found a snake, Mom!” I realized that the hand he was holding out was wrapped in a brown snake and my heart momentarily skipped a beat. Thankfully, I remembered that suspicious claim about Maine having only non-venomous snakes. I’m obsessive enough to have checked the facts and, short of contacting the State Wildlife Agency to confirm, I’m going to proceed living life the way I should…without fear venomous snakes. (The last known sighting of a Timber Rattlesnake in Maine was in 1901.)

Here’s our new (and likely temporary) friend, Mr. Baby Snake a/k/a Bing Bong. I can’t make this shit up.

Of course, after warning that snakes should never be picked up unless you know they aren’t poisonous and even harmless snakes bite, I let Joe hold Mr. Baby Snake who showed no signs of aggression. Plus, his tiny little head wasn’t threatening at all. I suspect that his mouth was too small to get a serious hold on kid fingers. Besides, how could I resist this textbook -boy” moment of exploration? Look at him… I love that smile and his new, too-big-for-his-face front teeth. I’ll think about the orthodontist bills later. For now I’m going to relish his final days as a six-year-old, big crooked teeth and all.

After he’d begrudgingly boarded the school bus and the grumpy bus driver shot me the hairy-eyeball, I realized that I was standing in the driveway in my nightie and a sweater. Whatever… we were having a moment. Besides, she’s pulled up and caught us doing The Robot and playing dead at the end of the driveway, I think it’s safe to assume her opinion of our family has been formed, nightie or no-nightie. (Do people even use the word ‘nightie’ anymore?)

Anywho… Joe was gone and the snake, now renamed Bing Bong, was subject to two inquisitive little girls who proceeded to poke him and decorate him with ornamental leaves. Bing Bong needed to look pretty for his journey home.

 

*Other than a bit of psychological trauma, Bing Bong escaped unharmed.

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Joe Cool

No one ever clued me in on the fact that children flip out over the most random of things. Sure, I assumed there would be tantrums about toys and candy, but shoes? What kind of kid has a raging tantrum about the kind of shoes their mother is wearing at any given moment? I fear that Kate, at the ripe old age of two, has inherited that dangerous gene that causes one to become passionate about footwear.

A few weeks ago, Kate felt compelled to style me. As I brushed my teeth she walked in and out of my closet proffering shoes. She brought Uggs, she brought riding boots, she brought ballerina flats, but it was the Jimmy Choos sandals and a pair of Lambertson Truex kitten heels that sent her over the edge. Like a fool, I sat there trying to explain to my two-year-old that sandals just aren’t appropriate for February in Maine. As if she understands that logic… I gave up after 10.2 seconds and stepped over her screaming body as she writhed on the floor with a shoe in each hand. I wanted to give her a time out, but the sight of her tantrum carried me back to the shoe department of Neiman Marcus and that time that I couldn’t afford the black patent leather Manolo mary janes.

On the other hand, I don’t think that Joe has ever really flipped out about anything. When he was a toddler, I used to call him Silent Bob. He possesses a certain level of calm, cool and collected that clearly comes from his daddy. I will never claim to be calm, cool and collected..or quiet. I am most definitely not quiet.

Despite his recent run-in with the school bully, Joe maintained his outward appearance of cool. He’s a guy who’s above it all and can’t be bothered with daily minutiae. He’s marching to the beat of his own (offbeat) drum and I love him for it. However, having addressed the bully issue with the school, my little guy has quickly returned to entertain us with his droll sense of humor.

Joe inherited his sense of humor from me. Yes, that’s right, from me. Okay, maybe David and I are both slightly twisted, whatever…the kid is funny. His use of props and a deadpan expression when he knows he looks ridiculous is simply awesome. 
Lately, he has discovered that with his new talent for spelling and penmanship, he can write whatever he wants. He has taken to composing anonymous notes and leaving them around the house. I found this one taped to the toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom. Very helpful, don’t you think? I mean, really…you never know when a random guest will arrive and have no idea where one is meant to do number two.
His bunk beds have been converted into a fortress. To enter, you must first request permission. Burping and farting are encouraged. The other night, as we performed our chaotic bedtime ritual, Joe’s little voice called out to me from the depths of his afghan stronghold, “Hey, Mom! Lay one on me !” I skipped back into his bedroom, thrilled to be summoned for one more smooch. After all, I’m told those days are limited. When I bent down and drew back the afghan while puckering up to kiss my boy, I was met with my son’s boxer short-clad rump. He was pointing at his posterior and maniacally laughing when he screeched, ”Lay one on me baby!”
Last weekend, Joe informed me that his ‘girlfriend’, who I will refer to as ”S”, kissed him. I was shocked. “Where did she kiss you?” He smiled a cocky little smile, “On the schoolbus.” I was flabbergasted. Does this start already? “Where did she kiss you?” With an annoyed sigh he said, “the schoolbus.” “No, I mean where on your face?” He rubbed his cheek and distantly smiled, “S told me we’re going to get married someday”. Whoa, fella.
The other night I heard him saying, “C’mon Francisco, hand it over.” A few minutes later, “Hey, Francisco! Get down!” Who was this Francisco person who he was talking to? I entered the kitchen to find him with Kate, who was dancing in the middle of the table. “Dance, Francisco, Dance!” I’ll admit it, my interest was piqued. “Who’s Francisco, Joe?” “Oh, hey mom… That’s Francisco” he said, nonchalantly shaking his thumb in the general direction of the talented toddler performing a soft-shoe on the kitchen table.
It seems that no one is immune a name change. He has begun referring to Stella as Fruff McPooch and would like to go by the Italian version of Joe. Alright, Giuseppe, sure thing.
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