Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Leapin' Lizards and Crocodile Tears

Allison is one of the neighborhood girls who loves to play with my toddler daughter. She is a shy 9 year old girl who has an aversion to combing her hair, a penchant for turning odds and ends into toys, and a devotion to all things Hillary Duff.

One of Allison's hobbies is adopting lizards. She has a talent for catching them, then she puts them in a shoebox or clear plastic container, names them, holds conversations with them and makes them her new friends.

I didn't realize how much these animals meant to Allison until I set one free.

You see, I'm not big on putting wild animals in captivity. Domestic animals are one thing, but when I see a lizard, I want it to be able to stretch in the sun and scurry up walls. Under the Aztec calendar, Cuetzpallin (the lizard) is my birthday sign. I feel like I'm a lizard and have always enjoyed seeing them run about. They eat bugs, they're resourceful... not bad attributes.

Allison caught a baby lizard that Alyssa, another neighbor, was playing with.

"Hi baby, now it's time to go to bed!"
"OK, baby let's clean the kitchen!"

Alissa was torturing this poor creature in a Polly Pockets playhouse, a pink plastic thing the size of a jewelry box.

I couldn't stand it. This defenseless creature was being held hostage by a psycho six year old and I decided to do something about it.

I took the lizard, walked over to the bushes, and set it free.

Allison came downstairs and upon learning what I did, ran back up in tears. I didn't realize that the wailing and crying I heard from afar was her, and strange enough it increased in volume and intensity whenever she'd see me.

"What's wrong with Allison?", I asked her sister.

"Well, she's feeling sad."

That's all she said.

Not realizing that Allison's tears were aimed towards me, I went about my day playing outside with my daughter.

"Gee, maybe if she came down and played she wouldn't feel so sad", I offered. "Hey Allison", I shouted, " wanna play with Citlalli?"

Allison looked down from her front steps, caught sight of me, then ran off wailing and moaning.

"She's scared of you", Alyssa told me. "She thinks you're going to kill all her lizards. She's afraid that the baby you threw out will die."

I didn't throw out a lizard, I set it free! Here I am, a grown woman, wanting to defend and justify myself to a six and nine year old.

Just then, Allison came running down with a big box of kleenex in her hands, looking in all the bushes for her baby lizard. She'd look over at me and let out a huge sob. OK, the guilt trip is working, I thought to myself.

So I went inside, feeling bad and confused, sad that I alienated a child. I talked to a few people and was told the usual, to mind my own business.

"You took away a part of being a kid", my sister told me.
Ouch.

"It's none of your business what that kid does", my husband told me.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

"I think you did the right thing", my friend consoled.
Finally, a kindred spirit!

Well, after stewing and thinking about it I realized a few things. Mostly things about Allison that have been under my nose the whole time, but I didn't add them all up.

Allison lives in a home with wrappers and dirty toys strewn about the front yard. She'll go weeks without combing her hair, often wears dirty clothes, eats only fast food and junk food and is afraid of people. Her dad can usually be found sitting in his van with the A/C on, talking on his cell phone. I've only seen her mom leave the house twice in the years they've lived here. They are an odd family, let's just put it at that.

I don't know much more about them, but from what I see, I think that Allison gives her little pets the love she'd like to receive. Each cricket she catches and names, each lizard, each rolly-poly... they're all her loved ones.

Allison doesn't torture animals and she honestly tries to provide a loving, safe environment for them. She wants to protect them from the harms of the world.

I still don't like wild animals in captivity, but I'm not going to get on my soapbox around Allison. I went up to her and apologized for setting her lizard free. She put down her kleenex, ran upstairs and brought down a tiny lizard, barely two inches in length.

"This is Baby Leopard. Wanna play?"

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