A Gator Mystery

Watching gators is fun - on TV or in a YouTube video. In real life, seeing one of these modern dinosaurs is enough to make me pee my pants. Remember how I felt about the snake in the birdhouse?

Once, when we vacationed in Charleston, South Carolina, we toured Middleton Plantation, a gorgeous mansion with manicured lawns, pond, gardens, and yep… gators. You never think you’re going see one of these guys outside a zoo or Discovery channel show, until you do.

At the time, my daughter was a preschooler, still small and thankfully willing to hold my hand. We crossed over a short bridge to see the lilypads and turtles below. I looked up and over.

“What’s that?” I asked, voice shaking.

Just over the pond, there was a long, dark object sunning on the grass.

Joe and Ethan gasped with delight. “It’s a gator!” They both high-tailed it over to the lawn like paparrizi to a celebrity.

“It’s probably a fake garden statue,” I said, hoping and staying exactly where I was. I held Abby’s hand tighter.

Sure enough, it was a real gator. It wasn’t the ginormous monster seen on cheesy movies or in thick jungles. But, it was a gator and that was scary enough for me. It rested its five-foot long armored body along the pond bank like it was trying to get a suntan. Occasionally - like when my idiot boys got too close - it flicked its tail as a horse would, swatting away the flies and irritators.

The entire day, I couldn’t relax. I looked for gators hiding in bushes, waiting around corners, plodding through tall grasses. I lifted Abby into my arms and carried her around. Gators may not be as vicious or striking as snakes (I have a real thing about those!), but there’s something fear-evoking about them, perhaps especially because they don’t fear anything or anyone.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Rumors about gators circle North Carolina islands like sea breezes. The more north or inland you go, the less likely you are to encounter them. Still, there’s a chance. Around the lake on Carolina Beach, there are considerate, but jarring signs posted. Watch out for gators.

When chatting with one of the

locals at the weekly farmer’s market, we asked. “Are there really gators?”

“Oh, yes,” she said enthusiastically. “They live in the lake, but keep to themselves. Recently, a fisherman spotted one taking a dip in the surf.”

“You’re kidding,” I said. I tried to picture a gator lumbering across the streets, through lawns and beachy underbrush, and over sand dunes to get to the shore. Seemed comical.

“Naw, it took a couple of waves and then strolled back up the beach,” she answered. Really?

In all our vacations, we’d never seen one in North Carolina. But, now that we’re house hunting there and cruising through neighborhoods, we're paying more attention, watching out for these mysterious beasts.

Beware of gators signs are as common as watch for children playing - a thought that runs shivers down my back. As if watching for snakes wasn’t enough, we’re now adding a prehistoric alpha predator to the mix.

Gotta admire them, though. Whether creeping up on unsuspecting deer drinking from a pond or holding up traffic on a whim to do some light surfing, gators do whatever they want. Because they can. They are fearless.

The gator possibilities delight the rest of the family. Joe and Abby have both said, “I can’t wait to see one!” Clearly, Abby doesn’t remember the tense afternoon spent at Middleton Plantation. Humph.

Anyway, they have accepted the fact that there will be gators and have chosen to deal with them, maybe even with giddiness and awe, as just another element of our new lives.

Joe and Abby have a go-gator-attitude.

It's a mystery to me how they have it, but I need that, too. Monster-sized challenges undoubtedly lurk around every corner of this crazy upheaval. We’ve faced a few already - no nibbles on buying our house in a month’s time, for one. But, we can’t run the other way screaming. We need go-gator-attitudes. We should not only expect and accept problems, but approach them with awe, wondering how God might work to walk us through them.

“The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people (or gators) do to me?”

Psalm 118:6