My daughter caught a lizard today. That’s normal. She catches one every few days.
Usually she holds on for as long as she can until it gets away. Lizards don’t so much like six-year-olds.
This lizard was different.
The only way I can think to explain it is that for some impossible to understand reason, this lizard loved her.
From the first minute she picked him up, he refused to leave her hand (Until he discovered her pocket—he loved the pocket).
He let her give him a belly rub.
She drew his picture and he posed, perfectly still for—I am promising you—twelve minutes (BTW He changes colors).
She hung onto the lizard all day. It wasn’t hard, because he never, not once, tried to run away.
Late in the afternoon, leaving the Austin Nature Center I decided it was time to tell London she couldn’t keep the lizard. “The Nature Center is the perfect place to leave him,” I said. “It’s beautiful. Lots of bugs to eat.” Insert hard sell…
Her face crumpled. “Mom! The predators will eat him! He’ll crawl into the animal cages and they’ll eat him.”
[This was actually not as far fetched as it may seem; we’d just walked past ten animal cages with a lizard symbol in the prey category.]
"London," I said. "We can’t take him home."
She snapped back, “Well, I can’t leave him here.”
And then she had an idea.
"Mom," she said. "What if I give my lizard (Camille was his/her name) to the Nature Center? Like, he can live in one of the aquariums like the frogs and snakes and stuff and they can take care of him."
My heart sank.
Here’s what I knew: Official city nature parks do not accept custody and care of common lizards.
I was going to have to tell my daughter that her perfect plan (it really was an adorable plan), her last ray of hope in this super sad situation, was as likely to happen as us adopting a unicorn.
I tried to tell her. Really I did. But looking in her wet, aching blue eyes, I caved and said, “Let’s talk to someone at the desk.”
We walked to the visitor’s center. London put Camille on the counter (where he sat waiting patiently) and proceeded to explain to the Nature Center official that she would like to offer her lizard as a candidate for the “Small Wonders” exhibit.
She spoke with confidence even though she couldn’t help but cry (she was proposing a separation, remember).
I am not going to say whether or not I cried. Okay, I totally cried.
The Nature Center woman [who I felt so bad for as I had totally shifted all of my child’s impending disappointment onto her shoulders] listened intently. Then she looked at me, all business, and said, “Could you and your daughter wait here for a minute?”
So we waited—London, Camille and I—on a wooden bench beside the desk.
What happened next… Let me just tell you what happened next:
Through the door walked both the The Nature Center’s head animal keeper and the director of education. They asked London to tell them about Camille, and they listened to her as if she were an adult.
The animal keeper said, “It’s a lovely anole (that’s the type of lizard). And London, we’ve been looking for an anole. Right now we only have one and he’s been very lonely.”
She asked London, “Would you consider leaving your anole here for us to care for him?”
The education director said, “We promise we’ll take excellent care of him. We feed them crickets every day—even on Christmas.”
(Please understand, this was not an act put on by empathetic Nature Center employees. It was, all of it, true.)
I almost choked on my own saliva.
London LIT UP.
Maybe I’ve seen her that happy before. I’ve never seen her happier.
We walked away from The Nature Center with London talking a mile a minute—about coming back to see him, about what a good job they’d do with him. She beamed all day long.
This is my new favorite story, and I wrote about it here simply because it had to be told.
Too, I think there’s a lesson in it. I think it’s this:
What you think CAN happen determines what WILL happen.
If it were up to me, Camille would probably be in some wounded owl’s stomach right now.
But because London saw a better option, she had the chance to make it happen.