The kids and I took a trip to the zoo on Thursday, sort of a “no more school” celebration. My oldest was strangely subdued during our adventure. Usually he’s one of the energy-sources, overflowing with enthusiasm and racing from excitement to excitement.
It took me about an hour to figure out what was wrong: he was missing his teacher, Ms. Ellis.
In the reptile house, he separated himself from us, and went off to look at the snakes by himself. I kept an eye on him from a distance as I went from exhibit to exhibit with his little brother.
“Dad,” he hissed urgently. “Come quick!”
I grabbed his brother and we hurried over.
“Look,” he said, his eyes wide, “look at the snake!”
He held his finger about an inch from the clear plastic. On the other side, the snake had his head up and was staring at it. “Watch!” My son said. He moved his finger slowly sideways, and the snake’s head followed it.
“No way,” his brother shouted. “Let me!”
Before I could grab him, he had his finger right up against the plastic.
The snake ignored him. “Hey!”
My oldest grinned and moved his finger farther away. The snake followed. “It’s me,” he said. “He’s following me.”
“That’s super cool,” I said. I gathered up my youngest and we went back to the other exhibits. He tried the finger trick with a couple of different snakes, but got nothing more than a single tongue flick from a bored rattler.
My oldest spent a good ten minutes with that snake. Other people stopped to watch, then walked away, talking about the boy and the snake.
Afterwards, he seemed more relaxed and loose. “That was cool.”
“It’s neat when you have a connection with an animal like that,” I said.
“Well,” he confessed. “Sometimes he was moving his head, and I was following him.”
“But sometimes he followed you, right?”
I patted his shoulder. “You followed him. He followed you. That’s what communication is.”
He thought about that for a few steps and then nodded. “Yeah.”
What I didn’t tell him was that he’s a parseltongue. I’ll let him figure that out on his own.