SAVED! | What a Child Taught Me

A Personal Vignette About a Lizard and a Small Moment in Life

It wasn’t a big thing. But kind of messy. Even a bit smelly, considering the old pizza boxes.

But sometimes we—should—do things just because they’re the right thing to do. Even if it’s an inconvenience.

Even if in another life, you never would have thought of doing it.

Like me. A lifetime ago—before my oldest daughter, Karen was born… well, actually it started when she became an activist at about age seven or eight. And I mean a vocal activist, for virtually anything that lives and breathes. But especially for snakes. And lizards. And frogs. And spiders and bugs. And reptiles of types I had never heard of.

Now, let me back up a bit. This is a little story about change. Not Karen, she stands fast in her belief—and love—for all ‘critturs,’ especially those that crawl and slither. It’s about my change because of her.

This afternoon, Daphne was taking out the small recycle bin that sits in the garage by the laundry door, to dump into the larger one outside, that we wheel to the street for pickup day.

I was in the garage and heard Daphne cry out. “C’mon!”

I came out and around the house to where the large trash cans are wheeled onto the pavers that run around that side. “What’s going on?”

“There’s a lizard in there, and I don’t want to put it,” she rattled the tall bin, “out on the street with it inside.”

I nodded. I didn’t want the little guy recycled either. He/She deserves as long a life as a green lawn-lizard can have if it can avoid predators (like Murphy who thinks they’re toys).

She tipped the trash can… sorry, tall plastic bin… forward.

I looked inside. “Damn it, he’s (gonna go with ‘he’ from now on, since it wanted to be a pain in the ass) at the bottom now.” I shifted glass, cardboard, plastic and paper around; crap that Stella Artois bottle had a little bit of beer left in it, how in the hell did that happen? I dried my hand on my shorts. “Let’s go ahead and dump it out and get him; we’ll just have to pick it all up and put back in the can…” [Sorry, plastic bin.]

SAVED! What a Child Taught Me a Vignette by Dennis LowerySo, we did. Out it all came onto the sideyard. We looked through it to see if we could spot the little green guy. No joy (a phrase I learned in the Navy when the ship’s SH-3 SeaSprite, an ASW helo, couldn’t spot them damn Commie, Soviet submarines, the sneaky bastards). I looked inside the plastic bin. There, clinging to the bottom with his little head turned to look at me, was the lizard. I reached in—stretching—to try and get him. He dodged. I stretched further trying to corner him. ‘Shit, he’s fast.’ I’m thinking ‘damn it… I ought to…’ but I stop. A young girl’s face comes to mind—brown-eyed, framed in brown hair—a face a lot like mine when I get pissed off. She would not accept such action on my part.

“Okay…” I picked up a piece of cardboard from the ground and went back in. Deep. Using it to herd him, I got him up the inside wall to the top. The cheeky little bastard danced around the rim. “Get off,” I suggested. “Damn it, jump!” I got him going down the outside and just above the ground—without a how-do-you-do or better yet, a thank you—he jumped off and skittered into the grass. Quickly out of sight.

I looked at Daphne and didn’t have to say anything. “I know,” she nodded and smiled at me.

I smiled, too at what we had silently agreed on: how much a child can change you. Not just the having of them—that they’re born—but how, as you raise them and they grow up, they form their concept of humanity, their perspective that creates the basis for compassion and their belief system. Old me—twenty years ago—would not have thought twice about closing the lid and wheeling it to the street, glass, plastic, paper, cardboard… and lizard inside. For all to go to its ultimate fate.

Karen has made me a better and wiser man. So, unlike the lizard… I will give thanks. To her.