What is it about hunger and exhaustion that focuses a person's desire for something unattainable so pointedly that no possible alternative measures up to the original object desired? Take garden snails in 100-degree weather, for instance.
It must have been that eighth viewing of Lion King 1 1/2. You know the scene where Timon and Simba compete to see who can suck down the most slimy snail innards, until Timon is so sick he collapses beside the enormous stack of empty shells, only narrowly avoiding the regurgitation of his share of mollusk guts.
Yeah, that would definitely make want to go find some snails. *shuddering*
Okay, so if I'm going to take my firstborn seriously, I need to respect his interest in any creature, no matter how revolting. I know that, of course. But I didn't realize just how unlikely we were to find a garden snail in our yard at this time of year, or I would have tried to explain that better first thing this morning, before his blood sugar dropped and the effects of a late night and early waking took hold.
Instead, I accepted my mom's invitation to go to dagny's, our favorite coffee haunt, before she had to go to work, and told my son we could look for snails in the big flowerboxes out front. My emphasis was on look. His expectations were on find.
My mother and I spent a whole five minutes with our green tea and iced latte on the couch visiting before my pinky finger was pulled toward the glass-paned front door. I had to follow it, of course.
It took only a few seconds to realize that no snails had managed to crawl along the downtown sidewalks and make their way into the coffeehouse planters. I tried to distract my forlorn snail hunter with tidbits of horticultural knowledge, but he was apparently already familiar with gardenias and ivy. He wanted to know WHERE THE SNAILS WERE.
Fifteen minutes later, my mom was still waiting for us inside and getting tired of it. By the time we headed toward the Jeep, we had a full-on raging 3-year-old on our hands and I was actively ignoring my best parenting theories, distracted by screaming, the onlookers and the urgency of my mother's need to get to work on time.
(Why do I do this? WHY?? Why, when my mother is involved, do I lose my ability to think straight and solve problems adequately? *Sigh* No, Mom, I really don't blame you. I really try NOT to blame you for everything. :))
Back at home, the quest was not forgotten. We headed across the street to visit our neighbors, who were out on their porch. I hoped maybe THEY had snails in their bushes. But they didn't. And Snail Hunter was not about to give up. "I WANT a SNAIL!" he reminded me as the irritating mother-chatter continued oblivious of his urgent desires.
I explained that the reason we hadn't found any snails yet was because of our hot, dry climate. "The snails are on vacation, sweetheart. They don't like it here in the summertime. If the (Neighbors) don't have snails in their flower beds, we probably don't either."
This only fed his frustration and impatience with me. "Iwanna'nailNOW!" he sobbed, becoming mostly incoherant in his desperation. Poor baby. It was also awfully close to lunchtime, and the bagel at the coffeehouse hadn't done much for him.
So we headed home. Where there were still no snails, and the explaining and sobbing continued until his mouth was full of sippy cup and milk -- a lunch for a boy too tired and unhappy to eat solid food. Five minutes later, he was more comprehensible, but just as focused.
"If I knew where to buy you a snail, I'd call Daddy and tell him to pick one up, baby!" But I really did not know what to do. We have no French restaurants here. I don't think anyone serves escargot. Even if someone watered their garden enough to keep them happy here, snails are not exactly prized by gardeners. Most people smash them; they don't put them on the side of the road for sale.
He fell asleep quickly once I settled both boys down for a nap. And then I called my best friend, who lives on the coast where it's wet and cool year-round. She'd left me a message in the morning asking if she and her son could come for a short visit on Friday. I called to tell her, "Of course! And I have a favor to ask... do you have any snails at your house?"
My Green-Eyed snail hunter has only to wait a couple days for the longing in his heart to be satisfied. Hopefully it will not seem a lifetime to either of us.