When I was a child, our family had pets. A lot of pets. Sometimes we’d have just a few at a time, other times our house was a positive menagerie.
We had cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, lizards, fish, snakes, rats, guinea pigs, and mice. At one point, we had a whole shed out in our backyard where we bred and raised rats to feed to our snakes.
I would inevitably fall in love with the cute little baby rats, of course, and plead for their lives, but alas. They couldn’t all be lucky. (Lucky is what I named the one baby rat I was permitted to save. I’d like to think I had a strong sense of irony even back then.)
I think the most exotic of all our pets was our iguanas. We had two, a brother and sister the names of which I can’t remember now for the life of me. They grew to be about a foot long each (their bodies were a foot long, their tails were another foot and a half or so).
We fed them meal worms and fruit and sat with them on our laps while we watched TV at night. They were our buddies.
The coolest thing I ever did with my iguana was take him for a bike ride. My mother and I used to ride our bikes twenty five miles away to a beach called Dana Point. We did this almost every weekend and it was our thing.
One Saturday, I decided I wanted to take my iguana with me. I put him in my backpack and opened the top so he could breathe and then we left. My mother may or may not have known my iguana was in my backpack.
When we’d ridden about halfway there, I felt something pulling my hair, followed by a scraping sound on my helmet. The puling and scraping continued until it stopped, after which I felt a weight on the top of my head.
My mom looked back and cracked up. Evidently my iguana had gotten tired of riding in my backpack and climbed up my hair so he could ride on top of my helmet. He’d dug his claws into the ventilation slits on my helmet and was riding proudly atop my head, mouth open and seemingly enjoying life.
I was in the shower the other night and that memory came out of nowhere. It made me smile.
If one of my kids asked me to take his/her iguana for a bike ride, I’d probably say no because I am staid and conservative when it comes to taking care of things.
But, my young self has reminded me, sometimes it’s ok to let a kid slip a lizard into her backpack. Because even iguanas can enjoy the ride if given the opportunity.