Friday, November 29, 2013


The word in Hebrew literally means: "trumpet blast of liberty."
Doesn't that just make you want to stand up and shout for joy? It's like an ancient Hebrew fist pump. It's a victory lap, a touchdown dance.

It's this face:
It is this face, in a hot and smelly overcrowded pet store on a Saturday afternoon.

It is this face, later in the afternoon, covered with small hands, hiding the tears that suddenly burst out. It is the muffled, laugh-cry-hiccup, "I'm just so happy! I can't believe she's here! I am so lucky!"

It is this little face, on her knees, hands clasped, uttering a spontaneous and ecstatic prayer of thanksgiving.

For this:
This is Jubilee. She's a leopard gecko.
Early in the summer, the jBird informed us she'd like a leopard gecko. If you've lived with jBird for very long at all, you know that she develops wild fascinations with random things that come and go with the seasons.

We did the blustering parent thing.... Big Responsibility... Live animal... Lots of work... Special equipment... a-ho-ho-ho... all the while twirling our mustaches and tucking our thumbs authoritatively in our parental suspenders. Our little girl smiled and said, "I know. I'll do it."

She spent the rest of the summer checking out books from the library, watching videos on YouTube about the care and feeding of leopard geckos. She explained painstakingly over dinner one evening about what to do if your leopard gecko should become impacted. Meanwhile, she saved her allowance. She asked for extra chores and saved the money from those, too. She searched Goodwill, every pet store in town, craigslist and eBay for the best deals on all the things she needed to bring a lizard home. She turned down opportunities to buy other, more immediate gratifications and hoarded her small fortune for six months.

Here's a secret: I hate lizards. I don't have many irrational phobias, but reptiles are one of them. Just being near them makes my skin crawl, I feel faint and like I have to get away right now when I'm in their presence. On our trips to the pet store to visit them, I have stood down at the end of the aisle, breathing slowly and evenly so I wouldn't run. My jBird doesn't know this. If there's one thing I hate more than reptiles, it's irrational fears. Leopard geckos are harmless. They don't even have teeth. Their tails are flabby and their skin looks like it's covered in little pimples, but they're not a threat to anything except meal worms and the occasional cricket.

Nine and a half years ago, a strange and wonderful creature came to live in our house. She was beautiful and soft and smiled easily. She knew her own mind and has taught me more than any one person I know. I remember standing in the kitchen of our tiny rented duplex in a college neighborhood, staring out into the quiet night. My baby laughed and played in my arms in the wee hours of the morning, very pleasantly wide awake. I held her up to see the stars and leaned my head against the glass of the window, thinking I'd never been so tired in my life, that I didn't think I could do this much longer. I had never been so afraid in my life. I rubbed my nose on the velvety back of her head where her neck started, all milky and rumpled with baby fat. I inhaled the foreign, intoxicating scent of this creature and knew, once and for all, my life would never be the same. The fear of that fact fell away and I remember that night, resolutely deciding that this is what I signed up for and that I had nothing to do but hang on and see where it took us.

That strange and wonderful creature is halfway to legally adult now and she has raised my demons, pushed the boundaries of my patience, my endurance, my very self far beyond the limits I thought I had. She has illuminated parts of me I didn't know existed, she has carved herself indelibly on my body and on my soul. She has brought laughter, light, delirious, riotous happiness along with the storms and the dark and inconsolable nights. She has, with her sweet and stormy self, brought jubilee. She is a trumpet blast that has liberated me from the confines of the smaller person I was. She has ripped my world wide open and shown me how much more there is to be.

And now she has brought Jubilee, the lizard who lives in my house. My strange and wonderful creature has shown me - yet again - with patience, perseverance and unbridled joy and thanksgiving, how to face my fears and sit with them where I live. She is my jubilee.


  1. Oh, wow. Our daughters are very much alike! Mine had a deep desire for a dog of her own. We had two dogs all ready, and a third wasn't anything I ever wanted, but we smiled and said we'd talk if she saved up her money. About six months later, we took her to pick up her puppy. The one she'd saved all the money for, including the first puppy vet visits.

    This stubborn determination will take her far in life! And while another dog wasn't what I had in mind, I'm very proud of her can do follow through attitude.

    1. These girls...
      Honestly, I'd prefer a lizard to a puppy.

  2. I'm totally with you on the irrational fear of reptiles. Yet, last summer, because Beege wanted to go to the "Critters show" at the funfair, I found myself with a ball python wrapped around my shoulders so that she could have a closer look. She was making that same face. They make us braver, Lou.

    1. They do! You're a good mama to wear a ball python for your little girl. That is one of the true sacrificial acts of motherhood that they don't really talk about in all the books you read when you're pregnant.

  3. "She has illuminated parts of me I didn't know existed, she has carved herself indelibly on my body and on my soul." This whole paragraph is such a perfect description of motherhood.

    1. Thank you so much, Julie. I find motherhood very difficult to write about. Your praise means a lot.


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