Every summer, my grandparents took all of us to most of the kiddie attractions in North Jersey. We made the rounds from the Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, to the Land of Make Believe in Hope, to Space Farms Zoo in Beemerville. (Let’s not forget Wild West City in Netcong, and Bertrand’s Island in Lake Hopatcong–they were on our route, too.) Those trips were a welcome respite from the ennui of hot, humid summer days–when there was no Internet, or 70 zillion movies to watch on demand.
I was thinking recently of a short tale my grandmother told me when I was about 16. I was nursing a broken heart over some teen-aged Lothario and she related a story she said came from her mother.
A girl is walking through the forest on a cold winter day. Suddenly, she hears a hiss and a voice calls to her pleading, “Won’t you pick me up and put me in your pocket? It’s so cold, I could die.” The girl looked down at a beautiful diamondback rattlesnake, and shaking her head, replied, “No, I can’t do that. You’ll bite me and I will die.” The snake begged and pleaded and wore on the girl’s conscience until she finally agreed. As she picked up the snake, it struck, hard and fast. “Why did you do that? You promised you wouldn’t,” she cried as she sank to the ground. As the snake slithered away, it said, “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”
I’ve thought of that story over the years, and the other night when I found the photo above, and I started to laugh. It pictures, me, my grandmother, and my two sisters at Space Farms. Where are we standing? In front of the Snake Pit, of course.
Luckily, the days of being charmed by snakes have safely passed for me–and I’ve given up wandering alone in the forest on a cold winter days.