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Finding a snake sitter isn’t easy.

I have three more days to locate one, or else Caramel the corn snake will be going with us to visit my parents in North Carolina, where he is not a welcome guest.

My parents have always invited Ron, the boys and me to visit and stay as long as we want. Despite the path of destruction we leave behind, they are eager for us to return whenever there is a break in our busy schedules.

The only time we truly tested the limits of my mother’s kindness was last Christmas, when Santa brought Tommy a baby corn snake. My mother was appalled, but in the spirit of the season, tolerated the slithering gift.

We kept him as far away from her as possible and did not bring Caramel to visit over spring break.

I didn’t realize how many people share my mother’s feelings about reptiles until Caramel joined the family. My big sister, Grace, had never shown fear of anything, at least in my presence, until she laid eyes on Tommy’s big Christmas Day surprise.

"Just keep it away from me," she advised in her sternest big- sister voice before returning to her holiday cheerfulness.

My own ability to be grossed out or frightened by creeping things must have vanished over the years of being a mom to three boys. With that in mind, I decided to appeal to my friend, Lisa, who has four sons.

We were chatting away at a kids’ birthday party, catching up on each other’s lives, when I asked the loaded question, "Are you gonna be around next week?"

She was incredulous at the idea of allowing one of her boys to snake-sit. "Are you kidding?" she asked. "A pet snake? Ewwwwww!"

If Lisa was disgusted by my request, I knew I had my work cut out for me. She is one of the few moms who is willing to go on those overnight Cub Scout campouts. Even I draw the line at spending the night without indoor plumbing. (Plus, the image of boys having farting contests in tents is my idea of "Ewwwww!")

I have considered trying to sneak Caramel into my parents’ house, but I know the secret, if not the snake, would get out. Plus, it would be a difficult task to get him down there in the car with Glory and the rest of us.

Despite his size, our smallest pet requires a big glass cage with lights to keep him warm and snuggly. Also, he eats baby mice that have to be kept in the freezer and thawed out at mealtime.

Since none of the stores in my hometown sell snakes or their favorite cuisine, we would have to pack some mice in a cooler along with the cage. It’s a lot of trouble to go to for one little snake, and I can only imagine my mother’s reaction to finding a six-pack of baby mice in her freezer.

Caramel may be small compared to his big sister, but all his supplies would definitely take up more room in the car. And how would we keep the snake warm and the rest of us cool in the ninety-five degree heat?

The one good thing that has come out of my mother’s disdain for Caramel is that Glory is now the star grandpet of our family. Her history of darting inside my parents’ home while covered in barn dirt has been eclipsed by the "Ewwwww!" factor of Tommy’s pet snake.

By the time you read this, we will already be back from our trip, and I will surely have tales to report of our time on the road. Hopefully, none of them will involve Caramel, or else I, and not Glory, may be spending some time in my parents’ doghouse.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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