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.
- my family had no idea how to choose or take care of a pet.
- i had no idea how to take care of and raise an alligator.
- 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.
- i felt sorry for him and he looked scared.
- i was determined to mother him and make him feel better, though no clue how.
- 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.
- he already had a name given to him by the agency – “jerry lewis”
- my parents pretty much left me on my own to figure it out.
- 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.”