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I would like to introduce you to the newest member of our family, Caramel Corn Zich. He isn’t anything like his big sister, Glory.

Caramel makes no noise, has no fur and only eats every other day. He likes to slither up the side of my arm and disappear in my sleeve.

Caramel is so small and quiet that I doubt Glory even realizes she has a little brother snake yet.

Did I say snake? Yes, that’s right. Santa brought Tommy a baby corn snake for Christmas.

No one was more surprised than Tommy, who had long since given up on his wish to have a reptilian pet. But Santa didn’t forget a broken promise that was nearly 3½ years old.

It was part of a deal the two of us made when Tommy was still in second grade. At the time, I was searching for something, anything, that would motivate my middle son to put more effort into his schoolwork.

So desperate was I to see “Promoted to grade 3” on Tommy’s report card that a pet snake was beginning to sound reasonable … to me. The mistake I made was not getting Ron’s opinion before making the deal with Tommy.

My husband’s reaction when I told him I had promised our son a snake was something like this: Are you kidding? A snake? No way! Only weird kids have pet snakes.

I crossed my fingers that Ron didn’t really feel so strongly on the matter and watched in amazement as Tommy began to do his homework and put more effort into school assignments.

By the time summer vacation rolled around, my newly promoted third-grader was ready to go snake shopping.

I should have come clean about his father’s distaste for reptilian pets right then and there, but instead, stalled for time and told Tommy we should wait until we were settled into our next duty station before getting another pet.

We spent two snakeless years in Carlisle, Pa., and were midway through our second year in Springfield, Va., when Ron suddenly did an about-face on his opinion of pet snakes, or at least I thought he did.

One morning in early December, Ron left a Petco advertisement by my computer on his way to work. The ad was folded to a page featuring corn snakes and snake habitats on sale, for a limited time only, of course.

I assumed he was finally giving me the OK to ask Santa to fulfill the almost- forgotten wish of a struggling second- grader.

So I did, taking action and vowing to face the consequences later.

On Christmas morning, Caramel Corn Zich was curled up and waiting for Tommy to notice him among the rest of the holiday booty.

Jimmy was the first to realize Santa had delivered a reptile. “Look Tommy, you got a snake!” he exclaimed.

I can’t think of another gift that would have produced the look of surprise and joy on Tommy’s face that morning.

So far, Caramel has behaved well and even Ron agrees with me that Santa had the right idea. Compared to big sister, Glory, the slender corn snake is a very low-maintenance pet.

It feels good to have finally kept that promise made long ago, even if it means we can now be referred to as one of those “weird families” that has a pet snake.

I’m sure we have been called worse.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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