Summering With The Kid

You know who I admire?

I admire people who say, “I don’t care what other people think of me.”

And mean it.

I’m afraid I’m not so strong.  I hate hate hate it when people are mad at me.  And I also hate it when people I live with are mad at each other.

The recent return of the hellish heat and humidity that is our summer here in the heart of Carolina has me both hiding in dark, air-conditioned rooms, and reminiscing about previous Matthews Family Band summers.

When The Kid was a toddler, Durham had those summer evening events with music, food, and activities for the kids.  It was free, sounded like fun, so one night we decided to go.

We were having a terrific time, The little Kid was dancing and making friends.

And then, it happened.

The Duke blue devil made an appearance.  We pointed him out to our toddler, who loved to see him on TV.

We hadn’t taken into account that on TV, the mascot was seven or eight inches.  In person, he was around six feet tall. 

Panic is an extreme understatement.  The poor child didn’t know whether to scream, cry, throw up, or run.  So all four were attempted at the same time. 

The Kid ran to us, screaming, “We got to go!  We got to go NOW!”

So we left.

But for the next few years, whenever we told The Kid we were going somewhere, the poor thing would get a worried look and ask, “The Blue Devil guy’s not gonna be there, is he?”

Another year, The Kid got to see Mommy in a frenzy of terror.

It was one of those days when I had one last nerve, and my only child was doing an interpretive dance right on it. 

I asked The Kid to go outside and weed the little flower bed around the mailbox.  I figured there wouldn’t be much actual weeding done, but I also figured the break meant I wouldn’t be drunk before dinner.

Within forty-five seconds The Kid was back. 

“I can’t weed.  It’s full of snakes!”

I tried to explain that it was probably a few worms, but my child would not be dissuaded.  I finally went out to the mailbox to prove I was right.

Except, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Some horrible, mean, sneaky, dastardly snake had laid eggs in the bed, and seventeen million of them had recently hatched. 

I was almost catatonic with terror.  The Kid took my arm and gently led me back into the house.

That night, I was drunk before dinner.

At the beginning of this essay, I spoke about my discomfort with ire.

One summer, Petey and The Kid were barely speaking.  Petey insisted our child needed a bicycle for Christmas.  The gift was a bust.

So, in late June, our little would-be cyclist still didn’t know how to ride, and showed no interest.  Husband and child had butted heads about it for six months.  I decided to end the stalemate and teach The Kid.

So one day, when it was about 732° outside, I took child and bike down to an empty parking lot to get it done.  I figured twenty minutes, tops.

Three hours later I was praying for the sweet release of death.  I gave up and that night, I announced I was out.  I was formally withdrawing from the great bicycle debate.  Done.

The Kid never learned to ride, and I honestly have no memory of what happened to that cursed vehicle.

So, here’s hoping that your own summer is not terrifying, sweaty, or frustrating.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

Snakey Snakes

Back when Fayetteville Street in Raleigh was closed to car traffic, one Saturday a friend and I went to the NC Natural History Museum.  We parked near one end of Fayetteville St. and had to walk to the other end, to the old site of the museum, the Agriculture Building.

These days, the street is busy, vibrant, and hip, with sushi joints, TV studios, and cocktail lounges.  Back then, it was Monday-Friday offices, furniture stores, and a lot of vacant buildings with boarded-up windows.  It was a Chanel suit at a bait shop—ignored and unappreciated.  

Honestly, the street was so deserted, it was kinda creepy.  It felt post-apocalyptic. 

At the museum, we wandered around looking at dioramas, stuffed animals, and rocks.

I turned a corner when it happened.

I was suddenly looking into the eyes of a gigantic, very alive, giant Burmese python.

The actual snake from the incident.

At that moment, the only thing in the world was a massive serpent so close to me we could have slow-danced.  I felt as if I had been transformed to the thinnest of glass, liable to shatter at the softest breeze.  I wanted to run, scream, and throw the darn thing out the window all at the same time.  But I couldn’t do any of those things.

Because you see, Gentle Reader, I am phobic.  I was frozen and speechless.  My friend, Angel, lived up to her name that day.  She gave the snake handler the dirtiest of looks, and while angrily muttering about “snake ambushes”, guided me away.

That was the end of our day.  I spent the rest of the day shuddering, feeling like I was about to upchuck, and needing a shower.

On the drive home, Angel didn’t ask me if I was phobic, it was sadly all too obvious.  She asked me if I knew how I became that way.

I told her I had no idea, that I had been that way as long as I could remember. 

Years, later, when telling a story that happened when I was four or five, I realized that this was probably the origin story of my abject terror of serpents of any stripe or type.

One day, while living in Mobile, my big brother Homer and I were in the backyard playing ball.  I muffed a catch and the ball went into the shoulder-high (to a kindergartener) weeds behind our yard.

I ran into the thicket and reached down for the ball.  And froze.  Homer yelled to get the ball but I couldn’t. 

The ball had landed right next to what seemed to me, an enormous, coiled, viper.  I whisper-shouted, “Snake!”.  Homer ordered me to freeze and ran to get Dad.  I froze.

After what seemed like days, Dad and Homer came running up.  Dad had a shovel that he used to dispatch the snake, which turned out to be of the garter variety.

Even this little bastard almost takes my breath away.

But it terrified me.  And an episode that occurred not long after the discovery of fire was burned, forever, upon my soul.  I can still remember every detail of the day.  I can smell the dried grass and see the sunlight flash off the shiny shovel as it came down.  And I can feel the mindless, primal fear.

I was also left with one more thing.  When I get frightened, I neither fight, nor flight.

I freeze.  My ability to move, as well as the power of speech, desert me.  I hate it.

So, when the zombies show up, get behind me.

You’ll have plenty of time for escape.  ‘Cause I’ll be standing there in suspended animation, like an all-you-eat debbie buffet.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at