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Sir Isaac Newt-on Gingrich

I’m almost home after picking Mikey up from pre-kindergarten when a call rings over the Bluetooth in the car. “Oh, it’s Dada,” I tell the 4-year-old.

“Hi, Dada!” I answer, and Mikey mimics from the back seat, “Hi, Dada!”

“Guess what I just found in the garage,” my husband says.

Immediately I know this is no good. I know it is either something alive or something that used to be alive. We live in a wooded area, so we get some pretty gnarly spiders, as well as snakes, amphibians, rodents and other creatures.

I’m also a little shocked because Mike knows my policy: If you find it, rid it, and don’t tell me. What I don’t know can’t hurt me.

“What is it, Dada?” Mikey yells from his car seat.

“It’s a little baby lizard!”

Nope. No way. Nooooo thank you.

“Can we keep it?” The child asks, excitedly.

“No,” my answer is immediate.

“Can we name it?” Mikey presses on.

“No,” I answer, again, immediately.

“Why not?” he whines.

“Because you only name things you keep, and we aren’t keeping it.”

I inform my husband that I’m turning onto our street and end the call. When we pull into the driveway Mikey is practically Hulking out of his car seat.

“Wait a second, Mikey, listen to me,” I turn around and tell him as he tries to undo his seatbelt. “Look at me. Mikey, listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth: We are not keeping it. Do you hear me?”

“Yeah,” and he hops out when my husband opens the door.

He definitely didn’t hear me.

“Momma, it’s so cute!” he yells, peering into the bucket as I round the car. “Can we name him?”

“No!” I say, as I slowly shuffle up to the bucket to see what horror I’m going to find. It’s a teeny, tiny salamander-type creature. It is actually kind of cute. Honestly, I had no idea we got them in the wild up north, the way they do in the South.

According to the internet, it is likely a spotted salamander, common in the eastern U.S. and Canada. Wikipedia says this creature is common around mature forests and spends most of its time underground, except after a rain for foraging or breeding. This makes sense, since it has been raining for about five days.

Mikey is now depositing blades of grass and leaves in the bucket to feed the tiny thing.

“Can I touch it?” he asks, leaning into the bucket.

“No!” Mike and I shout in unison.

“What should we name it?” he asks, and I give my husband the “I’m going to end you” eyes.

“Buddy, we can’t keep it because he or she has to go back to it’s mommy and daddy,” my husband says.

Mikey looks up. “Is he lost?”

“Yeah, bud. We have to put him back in the woods so he can find his family.”

Now Mikey looks like he’s going to cry. Apparently, we are going to go through the entire range of human emotions before dinner.

Mikey joins his father to deposit the salamander in the woods – far, far away from the house – and I hear Mikey asking my husband if he can get a pet for Christmas… Lord, help us.

The next morning Mikey went looking for “Spotter,” as he so lovingly named him, but (thankfully) he must have found his family.

Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at editorial@putnampresstimes.com.

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