Touching

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

A tiny red pet snake in a girl's hand.My daughter kept pestering me for the pet of her dreams—a snake. Ugh! The last thing I wanted in the house was a slimy, slithery snake. “But snakes aren’t slimy,” Katie insisted. “They’re cute.” She kept showing me photos of snakes in a hopeless quest to convince me of their attractiveness.

For several years the dialogue went something like this:

“Mom, can I get a snake?”

“Yes, as soon as you move into your own apartment.” (She was six when we first began the conversation.)

“But, Mom, snakes make great pets, and I really want one.”

“Yes, and think how great it will be to have your very first snake in your very own apartment.”

Since one of Katie’s virtues is not giving up, we had the same conversation several times each year. Eventually, I caved. We visited a local pet store with a large inventory of Katie’s dream pets. I was looking for the smallest and most mild-mannered. Did they have anything that would grow no longer than three to five inches with a short life span? No, came the reply. Think more in the three- to five-foot range with a life span of ten to fifteen years. Bad news! Still, I could hope that my daughter would soon tire of the snake. With that in mind, I asked the clerk, “Any market for used snakes?”

“Maybe,” he said. “Some people will take a full-grown snake, but nobody wants a snake that hasn’t been handled. If your daughter is serious about getting a snake, she’ll need to spend time with it.” Apparently snakes that are never touched become ornery, prone to biting.

A few days later, we took home a tiny red corn snake that Katie promptly christened Rico. Since then, Rico has fit into the family fairly well. He’s actually kind of cute and not a bit slimy.

My experience with Rico reminds me of the importance of touching and being touched. If even snakes need regular handling to calm them down and keep them civilized, how much more do we need the touch of another human being in order to maintain our own sense of calm and well-being?

 
Originally published March 30, 2015.

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