My twelve-year-old son announced today that he thinks he’s “puberating”. That’s his own word, by the way, and one of which Merriam-Webster has likely never heard. He said that he can see some facial hair above his lip and he’s been feeling, well, sort of different lately. Thank goodness he’s come to the conclusion that it’s puberty. I was getting ready to have his head shrunk.
This boy has always been a sensitive soul but lately he’s become positively weepy. And not just while watching that Sarah MacLachlan commercial with all of the shelter animals either.
The other day, someone ate all of the Crunchy Raisin Bran cereal – his favorite kind. Judging from the amount of tears, you’d think that we’d all just announced that we’ve never really loved him. He took the empty cereal container as a personal slight against him.
In spite of his “puberation”, there’s a still a little boy inside him; one that still has much to learn about many things. One for whom life’s lessons can sometimes be painful.
Four years ago, when Matt was eight, I took the kids to our local fair. My husband recently had surgery and wasn’t able to go with us. The kids knew that a Dadless day at the fair meant that I would give them money for carnival games, something that their father rarely does.
As we were getting ready to leave the fair for the night, Matt saw a game where you could win either a small lizard (a green anole) or an Iguana. You had to throw white ping-pong balls into these small fishbowl-type things filled with water. It looked as if it would be difficult to win because the bowls were so small and their rims were practically the same size as the ping pong ball. The bowls were spaced far apart on a table. A ping pong ball would most likely land between the bowls rather than in them. My mind quickly analyzed the Potential for Bringing Home a New Family Pet and determined that with Matt’s lack of athletic skill coupled with the seeming impossibility of the game, we’d merely be making a donation to Mr. Lizard Game’s liquor fund.
Matt was given three balls. You could give him seventy-three balls and the boy still wouldn’t have a prayer of making it in one of those teeny bowls, I thought to myself.
No sooner had I finished my thought, I heard a loud “plink”. Remarkably, the first ball, the very first one that Matt had thrown, landed right in one of those teeny bowls. Matt had the option of continuing to play for the Iguana, or keeping his prize, which was a small green anole. Matt chose the anole.
Of course, being completely unprepared for having an anole as a pet, we left the carnival to get to the pet store before it closed. Fifty dollars later, we were set up with a tank, a heat lamp, a water dish, a cave in which the lizard could hide, and a supply of live crickets as food.
Matt named his anole Cypher. Actually, it was supposed to be Cyther, but Matt had a lisp and it came out “Cypher”.
Fast forward four years. I went into Matt’s room to wake him up for school.
Uh-oh. Something doesn’t smell too nice in here. I sniffed the hamper. Just typical boy-stink. I opened the closet, hoping we didn’t have another dead flying squirrel in there like we did last year. Nope. All good in there. Could it be a dead mouse inside the walls? While muttering to myself about critters getting inside and what a pain it is to live in an old house, I walked over to Cypher’s tank to turn on the light and spray him. The source of the smell was Cypher.
I didn't think before blurting out "Oh my gosh, Matt, Cypher's dead!" to my still-sleepy son. Big mistake! Now I had to get a teary child ready for school and figure out what to do with a dead pet, which by this point, was stinking nicely. Poor Cypher must have bought the farm some time over the weekend, but no one noticed. Matt probably just dumped some crickets in to feed him without really looking in the tank. The crickets were still running around, uneaten.
I knew that I had to get the tank out of Matt’s room before it proceeded to stink up the entire house. I picked up the tank and started to carry it out of Matt’s room. Dead lizard smell assaulted my nose.
Matt, sniffing: “Can I please see Cypher one more time?”
Me (holding the tank up to Matt in his bunk bed so he could see his deceased lizard): “Sure, sweetie.”
Matt: “Maybe he's just molting.”
Me (looking at shriveled, beef-jerky lizard with sunken eyes on the bottom of the tank and using my gentlest voice possible): “No, honey...I'm pretty sure he's not molting.”
Later, after Mission Bury the Lizard was successfully completed. I could honestly tell Matt that no, Cypher was definitely not molting. Lizards typically don't shed entire body parts and eyeballs when they molt.