The Dance of the Snake Goddess Redux
I apologize for repeating this post from 2011, but it is one of my favorites, and a memory that is brought to mind on those few occasions that i have to go to court for my children and I see this particular lawyer there…and I always giggle…
A very conservative lawyer friend had a very conservative lawyer wife who had taken up belly dancing. She and 2 friends were so skilled in this talent that they were chosen to be performers for a large audience for First Night, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in the city. For an added “twist” to their act, my lawyer friend asked if his wife could borrow one of my son’s 5 foot long boa constrictors for their dance. I had plenty of reservations, but I said okay. (It is always good to keep a lawyer friend happy because you never know when you will need a lawyer’s help.) The ladies came to our house, and practiced with the snake while my son, Steven, who is very familiar with snakes, supervised. The practice went very well, and the ladies excitedly decided to bill their act as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses.”
Well, New Year’s Eve came and I reminded Steven that we had to take the snake to the performance hall for the act. Steven, who has Asperger’s and an anxiety disorder, was mortified! There was no way HE was going to go to a large hall where there were a lot of people! He handed me a pillowcase to put the snake in, and a bottle of alcohol “in case it bit someone”. He promptly took off on his bike peddling away to destinations unknown to me, (but far away from First Night appearance.) I started to panic! These excited dancers were billed as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses” and they would have no snake! Feeling extremely obligated to provide them with a snake, I decided to bring the it myself. I had not minded the snakes when they were locked in the glass tanks, but somehow I was going to have to get up the nerve to actually take the snake out and put it in the pillowcase. My hands were shaking as I undid the lock and took the cover off of the tank. It looked docile enough, just lying there. I reached in and managed to push it into the pillowcase using a long sleeved pot holder, proud of myself for not having to touch it. Maybe I’d be okay! I tentatively carried the pillowcase to the living room, but I had miscalculated by not securing the top of it. The snake’s head popped out, I pushed it back down. It popped out again, and I pushed it down again. This time it was stronger and its head came our farther. When I tried to push it back in, it wiggle away from me and the whole snake came slithering out of the bag, which I promptly dropped. There, on the floor of our living room, was a slithering 5 foot long snake! I screamed. My husband came to see what was going on, and he jumped up on the couch and screamed. Even though I was shaking and my first instinct was to smash the thing over the head with a broom, I remembered my commitment to our lawyer friends. I gathered up my courage and, using the broom gently, I nudged it back into the pillowcase, this time immediately tying the top into a knot.
I was still shaking from this experience as I drove to the city with the wriggling pillowcase on the seat next to me. I was feeling tremendous relief that I had at least caught it and was on my way to the performance. I even felt a little sorry for it, and turned the heat all the way up in my car so it could be warm. (It had started to snow outside, which would mean there would be a larger than usual audience for an inside performance as the outside First Night performances would involved standing around in wet snow. Great! A bigger audience for what was sure to be a Snake Goddess fiasco!)
When we got near the theater, I put the pillowcase inside my coat to keep it warm. (MY I was brave!) There was a line around the building waiting to see the performance. I went to the head of the line, and quietly said to the guard at the door, “I have the snake for the performance.” In his loudest voice, he parted the crowd by saying “Make way for the snake handler. Make way for the snake handler!” I wanted to hide! As a middle aged, shaking, nervous, dowdy woman, I no more resembled a snake handler than a chipmunk would resemble Santa Clause.
I managed to get back stage with the snake and the belly dancers were very excited. They carefully took him (her? I couldn’t tell the difference,) out of the bag and began to practice. By now I was shaking so badly that my stomach was in knots. I was holding the bottle of alcohol (“in case it bit someone”.) I was on the verge of tears, both from relief that I’d delivered the snake in one piece, but also fear that it would bite and there would be blood and screams and lawsuits.
The audience in the large theater was packed, standing room only. The music for the dancers began. They dramatically began the act hidden behind veils, with the snake on one woman with the head at one hand, draped across her back, and the tail on the other hand. They did a dramatic dance, dropping the veils at different intervals for the audience to get a glimpse of the snake. I could hear “ooooh” and “aaaaaah” from the audience. I was hoping the snake wasn’t going to slither down and into the audience causing mass panic, emptying the audience out into the street, or, worse yet, go around biting audience members with me following along with my bottle of alcohol. (Then I’d really need a lawyer for the lawsuits!)
Then something strange happened. The dancers dropped their veils, and the snake actually seemed to join in the dance. Soon its head was wriggling in time to the music, its tail was swaying around, and it seemed to be having a grand old time! It began to slither in time to the music (a pure coincidence I’m sure,) from one dancer to the next. It was an amazing sight, the graceful gyrating dancers and the graceful gyrating snake, all moving in time to the music. Mesmerizing. Amazing. The act finished to a standing ovation, and darn it if it didn’t seem as though the snake bowed his head in response to the clapping from the audience.
After the show, the dancers gave the snake a few affectionate pats and back into the pillowcase it went. I tied it in a knot, put it under my coat, and carried it back to the car. I felt as though I was going to cry, but this time it was tears of relief. I don’t know how I get myself into these situations, but, again, I’d come through it unscathed, with a little more respect for the reptile in the pillowcase next to me!
To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:
The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane