When we moved to New Hampshire – uprooting the kids from the only home they’d ever known – I wanted it to be a wonderfully smooth transition them.
I wanted them to be excited!
I wanted them to remember the move as simply wonderful!
Soooo… I resorted to bribery.
To my daughter, a six year old at the time, I said, “Remember how you’ve always wanted a kitty-cat? Well in New Hampshire…”
Tucker, a savvy boy of eight back then, smelled opportunity.
“I’ve always wanted a gecko,” he said, his eyes growing big with excitement.
A gecko? I thought. One of those cute little lizards from the insurance commercials? Why not?
“Sure,” I said. “You can get a gecko.”
Tuck ran out into the backyard he’d soon be leaving, shouting out to the grass and the trees, “I’m getting a gecko! I’m getting a gecko!”
A few months later we’d settled into our new house, the kids had settled into their new school. Life was good.
Except… we were missing a couple of promised pets.
Max the Cat came first. An all black, one-year-oldish stray that the crazy lady at school couldn’t take in because she already had like 172 cats. “If I can catch him, you want me to bring him over?” she asked. Looking into Andie’s hopeful eyes behind her round rimmed glasses, I said, “Sure.”
Max has been with us ever since.
With the cat’s arrival, Tuck turned up the heat on the gecko acquisition. And before I knew it, there I was at the local pet store staring into a glass aquarium filled with lizards.
“Aren’t they cute, Mom?” Tuck asked. I could only nod.
The sales clerk arrived to help.
“We’d like one of these,” I said pointing into the cage.
“That one,” Tuck shouted. “The one on the branch in the back!”
“Good choice,” the clerk said to Tuck. He spoke like he had marbles in his mouth, and I noticed he was missing a couple of his front teeth. “They’s great pets. I’ve had ’em all my life. Live long too. They can live 15 to 20 years if you treat ’em right.”
“15 to 20 years?” I asked.
“Thank you so much for letting me get a gecko, Mom,” Tuck said.
“Ya got all the equipment?” the clerk asked.
And before I new it I was standing behind a shopping cart filled with a huge glass aquarium, a heat lamp we’d have to run 8 to 10 hours a day, bags of sand, a glossy rainforest print for the back of the glass to make the gecko feel at home, and a slew of other stuff that I quickly calculated added up to about 150 bucks.
“Thank you so much, Mom,” Tuck said again. I looked down at his little hand next to mine gripping the handle of the cart.
“You’re welcome, Buddy,” I said with a sigh.
“We couldn’t find the food,” I told the guy.
“That’s ’cause the food’s back in the ‘fridgerator section.” He pointed and Tuck and I looked toward the back of the store. “Got to buy live meal worms. D’you get a lid for that ‘tararium? Them uneaten worms turn to moths and fly all round the house if you don’t keep the cage covered.”
“Thank you so much for letting me get a gecko, Mom,” Tucker said again.
Suddenly the lights in the store were too bright. I squeezed the handle of the cart and closed my eyes to steady myself. When I opened my eyes I saw a small warning sign on the side of the cage.
WARNING: WASH AFTER HANDLING. GECKOS CARRY SALMONELLA
“Salmonella?” I said.
“Oh yeah,” said the clerk. “I got it so bad when I was ’bout 10, had to stay in the hospital for weeks. Missed school though,” he said winking at Tuck.
“Tuck,” I began.
“I knew it,” he said before I could say any more.
“I just think we need to talk,” I said.
“I knew it,” he said, fighting back the tears. I followed him out of the store where he sat down on the curb.
“Mom, you promised,” he said.
And he was right. I had.
And thus began the lesson of When It’s Ok to Break a Promise.
Besides, in the end, really, which is better One Gecko or TWO HERMIT CRABS?!!