It was never very attractive--a five foot long stuffed snake, with felt eyes.
We were too old to love it, but we
amused ourselves with it--threw it to one another,
draped it over our boyfriends, curled it threateningly in corners.
One night when I was twelve,
my older sister stood with me in front of the house,
dancing and singing and tossing the snake.
Seized with a sudden fear of the long farewell approaching,
the end of her childhood,
she turned to me and said, fiercely,
"We must never grow up."
More urgently --"we must promise, here, on this snake,"
"that we will always be silly. We must promise"
"that we won't forget, as grownups do,
"to laugh, that we can always play"
"with a stuffed snake, even when we are forty, and old."
I promised, on Snakey's head.....
We both grew up.
Snakey sat on a shelf for thirty years.
A little cotton poked out from the seams, and his eyes were gone.
The grandchildren played with him,
Though they found him large and awkward.
Then all thought of youth ended.
My father died; my mother moved to me; the house was sold.
In a flurry we swooped in to triage the belongings.
Some things to new homes, some to the auction.
The rest, cast aside, cleaned up by others--sent off to the dump.
Snakey lay discarded as we wept and packed.
Alone on the closet shelf, he awaited his destiny in a landfill.
My son, fired with a final curiosity, went searching for last things.
Down stairs he marched, snake in hand, indignant we would abandon such a friend.
"You can't leave Snakey!" he declared.
"Snakey wouldn't want to be here alone."
I heard again my sister's voice and mine as we swore on Snakey's head.
And stood forsworn... grown up past comprending.
We opened the last sealed box, fit Snakey in.