Of lizards and boys


Imagine being a 7 year old boy going to visit his Grandpa on the farm. The tractors and the horse are fine, but their appeal is nothing when compared to this.

“Hey, Ben, guess what I saw in the horse barn this morning? A salamander. Should we try to catch it?”

This is music to the ears of a kid who has remained steadfast in his love of all things reptilian. When he realized the nonfiction area of the children’s library had an entire section devoted to the reptiles of the world, it was better than anything Santa could ever bring. Fur is fine for many, but for Ben, slimy or dry scratchy skin wins any day.

“A salamander! Let’s go!”

Dejected and defeated, they trudge back. It was spotted but never within reach. Each day they would check but in the end there was no luck.

It would be a long drive home. Five hours and no salamander.

“Mom, do you think there might be a pet store on the way home? Can I get a lizard?”

This might seem like a time to say no. After all, I am sure he is expecting me to say no. A lizard for nothing? No earning? No strings attached? That is crazy talk. What I am best at, according to Ben, is saying no. No, you may not have a popsicle for breakfast. No, you may not use the chain saw to build a critter catcher. No, you may not use the new shampoo for your science experiments, no you may not try the new scissors out on the dog’s hair. No. No. No. So with silent communication between dad and me it is settled.

“Dad and I have to talk. You take a nap and we’ll let you know.”

The kid played hard on the farm. Twenty minutes into the drive he is asleep dreaming of lizards, and I am discovering how to access the internet on my phone so that I can locate an open pet store.

Four and half hours later, Ben hardly notices as we gently guide him away from the $79 bearded dragon toward the $5 green anole, a most unfortuate name for a kid’s lizard.

All the way home, throughout dinner, and in his bath, he is positively glowing with excitement and joy. He simply cannot believe his luck.

“This day is so much better than I expected it would be! You wake up and there is no salamander and then suddenly there is a lizard!”

Later he tolerates a phone call to the other grandparents. Dad is talking to them about baby Ada who was born this weekend, and there is much to discuss. Finally, Ben gets the phone.

“Enough of this chitter chatter. I have a LIZARD!”

Clearly, he has a grip on the order of importance in his world.

And so do we. Despite the fact that I now have to purchase some ickly looking live crickets on a weekly basis, it seems a small price to pay for knowing that the power of yes can be just as important as the power of no.