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A Lizard Tale for Christmas

I was working in the laundry room one summer day in 1989, when Lou and the boys passed me on the way out the back door.

“I’m taking the guys to the pet shop,” Lou announced.

“We don’t need another pet,” I warned.

“Oh, we’re not going to buy anything. We’re just going to look, just something to do.”

“Uh, huh. Right.” Brave man. Three little boys - ages eight, seven, and three - loose in the pet store. What a relaxing way to spend the morning. “Just remember,” I called after them, “If you buy anything, I’m not taking care of it.”

Some time after I had finished my work in the laundry room I heard Lou and the boys returning from the pet store. Three excited voices were babbling all at once, saying something about a lizard, and Lou gave me a sheepish look as he carried a glass cage into the house.

“You bought a lizard?” I was incredulous. There were hundreds of lizards for the taking outside in the yard.

“This one is special.”

“He’s a tokay gecko...”

“From Southeast Asia!”

“People there keep them in their homes to kill bugs.”

“We got a good buy.”

“He’s real pretty.”


I looked. The cage was a lot like a big fish tank except that it had a screened lid on top. On the bottom of the cage lay a lizard about six inches long. It was gray with bright orange spots all over it.

“That’s an interesting lizard,” I admitted.

“We got a heat rock and everything!” The boys began pulling supplies out of a sack.

I watched as Lou set up the new lizard home on my laundry room table. One of the boys brought in a big chunk of wood and some rocks to put in the bottom of the cage so the gecko would have a more natural environment.The heat rock with its electrical cord was settled amidst the other rocks so the lizard could keep its cold-blooded heart warm.

“Lets call him Spot, because he has spots,” Mark suggested.

“No, that’s a wimpy name,” Sam objected.

“I think we should name him Spike,” Josh said.

“Yeah, Spike. That’s a good name.” Sam agreed with Josh.

Mark protested, “Those are spots, not spikes!”

“Well, Spike’s a better name than Spot!”

I could see this conversation was headed for battle, so I offered a diplomatic solution. “Why don’t we call him Spot-Spike?” 

Silence. Then Josh nodded his head. “That’s cool.”  It was agreed, but in reality, as the years went by, Spot-Spike came to be known simply as “the lizard.”

That first day, I asked an important question. A nagging suspicion had been growing in my mind. “What does it eat?”

No one answered at first. I looked at my family. “Tell me it eats fruits and vegetables,” I said hopefully.

“It eats insects,“ Lou finally admitted.

“Dead, dehydrated ones you can buy at the pet store?”

“Live ones, but don’t worry. We’ll catch them. There’s lots of insects outside. It won’t be a problem at all.”

“Well, that’s good to know, because if you guys don’t feed this lizard, he will die. I am not catching insects for this creature.”

Spot-Spike lived more than a dozen years and was a popular member of the family. Guests always wanted to see him, and during telephone conversations relatives never failed to ask how the lizard was doing. As mother and caregiver to all my brood, I eventually became as skilled as anyone at catching insects. Sometimes other people were drawn into the search for lizard food. Once I discovered a contractor and his crew of workers, hired to do repairs on the house, down on their hands and knees catching crickets under the coaching of my youngest son. How nice, I thought, until I realized I was paying these guys about thirteen bucks an hour to catch bugs.

One year, several weeks before Christmas, Spot-Spike escaped from his cage. A small crack at the corner of the wire lid had given him access to the free world. I was frantic. Even if people in Southeast Asia allow geckos to roam freely in their homes, I didn’t want one wandering my halls, exploring dark corners while we were sleeping. I imagined waking up in the middle of the night with him latched onto one of my toes.

By now the lizard's cage had been moved from the laundry room to Sam’s bedroom, so we began our search there. I hoped to find him hanging out on the wall behind a piece of furniture or in the closet. No luck. We poked around all the nooks and crannies in the other bedrooms, the living room, the bathrooms, the kitchen. We couldn’t find him. Our lizard had vanished. Each day the boys would come home from school and ask if I had found him. As the days and weeks passed, I began to think Spot-Spike was gone for good.

Before bedtime we always had “hug and prayer time” with the boys; and a few nights before Christmas, Mark had a special request. 

“Dear God, please let our lizard come home for Christmas,” he prayed.

“Amen,” I said.

The night before Christmas, Mark suddenly began shouting from the bathroom in the back part of the house.

“Mom! Mom! Come here! I found the lizard!"

I hurried back there. "Where is he?"

Mark pointed. "Look at the wall!"  

I stared at the wall and at first saw nothing. Then I noticed a bulge in the wallpaper, and the bulge was moving. Apparently, Spot-Spike had found a loose seam in the wallpaper and was now crawling around between the wallpaper and the wall. We peeled away the wallpaper, which needed to be replaced anyway, and rescued him. He was fat and happy and not at all the worse for his adventures, wherever they had taken him. We returned the lizard to his cage, and I was thankful to God, who is great enough to care about little things that are important to the heart of a small boy.


Note: Spot-Spike came along years before I owned a digital camera. The images here are public domain photos of a couple of Spot-Spike's cousins who look just like him.

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Reader Comments (16)

Little boys are so much fun! I've had lizards roaming the house, too. None so pretty, though. A very well written story (as usual).

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJane Strong

I loved this wonderfully told tale! Made me smile.

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

The things we do for our boys. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristi {Jealous Hands}

Lovely story!
Season's Greetings to you ad yours, Deb!

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

At least now you could mail order bugs for your lizard. lol He was a beautiful lizard and lived a long time.

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

What a wonderful Christmas story. Best wishes for a merry Christmas this year too!!

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKris P

What a heart warming story Debs, and a really lovely tribute to a much beloved pet. The story on how Spot-Spike got into your home made me smile and laughed at the humour injected within the anecdote. Merry Christmas to you and everyone in your family!

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark and Gaz

What a wonderful story, I'm so glad that Mark's prayers were answered.

December 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPauline

That was such a fun post. Spike/Spot was really cute. I was laughing and a bit scared he would not be moving under the wallpaper at the end of the story. It really was a nice Christmas wish that was granted. Have a wonderful Christmas Deb.

December 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

I love your story Deb....what we will do for our families and critters....catching insects oh boy. Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

Lovely story, made me smile, especially that part about naming the lizard. While my son was young we had several cats that needed a careful renaming before going to the vet as it was too difficult to explain how on earth they got their names. They got their names back as soon as they got home though!

December 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelene

Oh gosh, so many times I've said prayers of thanksgiving like yours ... "Thankful to God, who is great enough to care about little things that are important to the heart of a little boy." Yes, I remember that feeling from when my kids were young. What a beautiful story and a wonderful memory for your family. Merry Christmas, Deb!

December 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBeth @ PlantPostings

Great story! Very entertaining!

December 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

I love your posts, this one included, and I have enjoyed reading them all year. I wanted to take this time at the end of the year to wish you and those close to you a very merry Christmas, and a wonderful New Year full of very special days.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie@Seattle Trekker

A very happy Christmas to you, from the beige geckos who live wild and free in our garden.

December 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Studer

What an exciting entertaining story Deb. You are a gifted storyteller. Happy holidays to you and yours.

December 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

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