sorry, jerry lewis.


when i was 7 or 8 years old

my father came home

from his job at the ad agency

with a new pet for our family

and it just happened to be a baby alligator.

he was not more than 9 or 10 inches long 

 in a small box and cute as could be

i was really excited

and pictured myself playing with him and his friends

(just as in the vintage postcard above)

i thought he would just fit right in

with my family

in our colonial house

in the suburbs 

though, there were a few ‘glitches’ with this scenario.

  1. my family had no idea how to choose or take care of a pet.
  2. i had no idea how to take care of and raise an alligator.
  3. my father had become the owner of the alligator through some sort of crazy ad campaign, so it had probably been through a rough time in its life already.
  4. i felt sorry for him and he looked scared.
  5. i was determined to mother him and make him feel better, though no clue how.
  6. i had no idea what to feed an alligator, so i fed him lettuce and water and thought my sisters would help me catch flies for him.
  7. he already had a name given to him by the agency – “jerry lewis”
  8. my parents pretty much left me on my own to figure it out. 
  9. writing this out, it all seems even crazier than it was. 

i had my alligator for a few days and i was very excited to have my friends in my class meet him. when the big day came for show and tell,  i carefully carried him in his little cardboard box, climbed onto the bus, and jerry and i headed off to school. i remember it was a bit chilly that day, but i didn’t know anything about natural alligator habitats, so i didn’t think much of the weather. i was bursting with excitement.

i put my box on my desk and when i was called up for the big reveal, i opened by box, only to find that jerry lewis had passed away on the way to school and was now stiff as a board. i couldn’t believe it and i felt so sad for him. looking back, i’m sure that any baby alligator given away in a promotion, was not long for this world, but i had hoped that we would be together for a long while. my teacher was very nice about it, and helped me wrap up his box and i rode home that day on the bus with jerry, ready to have a funeral for him. i learned so many life lessons from my short time with jerry lewis. – r.i.p.

(not me, or jerry, but how i imagined us at show and tell)


” i go where the action is.”

-jerry lewis

87 responses »

  1. My goodness, that is very sad and must have been bewildering to handle as a small girl. Part of me thinks though you may have got a lucky escape. Perhaps in time his dietary enthusiasms might have changed and spilling a small amount of tomato ketchup on your hand or leg could have had disastrous results !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poor Jerry. They used to sell baby alligators here in FL, until they found out most of them dies and the rest should not grow up in the northern cities! So… (as you might expect)…they stopped selling them.
    Never thought I’d ever hear about someone who actually had one!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, you’ll certainly never forget THAT. So curious that he would have just slipped away so suddenly. I guess there was no way to tell if he was very sick. Poor thing. P.S. the baby in the postcard does not look safe. I’m calling CPS.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember the chameleon I got as a child with a thread tied around his leg attached to a little gold safety pin that I attached proudly to my sweater. I don’t think I (or anyone) even thought to feed the poor little cuss, and of course, he went the way of your Jerry Lewis, much to my sorrow. Yikes! And remember the fuzzy little chicks and ducklings they sold for Easter? Guess we’ve evolved in that we’re not doing that anymore, except buying from puppy mills…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If children experience death and dying with a pet, and have an open forum to talk about it and ask questions, that can be a good thing for down the road. When a grandparent or loved one dies. Poor Jerry. I know it was hard for you, Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awwwww . . .
    Over the years I’ve killed several wild animals through misplaced efforts to take care of them. A turtle in a terrarium in the sun. A possum that drowned with her babies when the compost can got flooded. A lizard squashed in a sliding door. It has made me aware of how little we know about what animals require to survive. What if Jerry Lewis had grown up?


  7. well done.

    the dime stores used to sell little turtles with painted backs, especially at easter for some reason. i think the paint proved fatal for the turtles eventually.

    when i was last in new york, i took the sewer alligator tour. amazing.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh, so sad. It sounds like you had a kind and thoughtful teacher.
    To this day, I do not know how I let our younger daughter talk me into letting her have a prairie dog for a pet. Timone (from the Lion King) lived a few months longer than Jerry Lewis and did teach Katy (and her mommy) a few important life lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. i love this story, the pathos of it all ! If nothing else, this jerry would have had a wonderful funeral i am sure ! poor jerry ! imagine if he had lived and lived and lived like one of the GOT dragons ! you could have run away to the circus at an early ! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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