In Their Shoes: How to Measure an Iguana

This morning my 10-year-old son was describing what was apparently an unusually large iguana that had made its way through a fence during recess. With a good deal of exhilaration he proceeded to describe this lost reptilian soul who sounded positively gargantuan. He then punctuated this schoolyard bulletin with a declaration that fell more like a punch line. Eyes wide, arms even wider, he exploded, “He was five feet long!”

A five-foot-long iguana on Lincoln Street. I wasn’t convinced. I said, I doubt he was actually five feet. “That would make him as long as I am tall.”

“No, Mom!” My son’s exasperation was unchecked. “Not in your feet – in mine!”

Boy, he told me. In his feet. How else would you measure an iguana? I had to turn away when he said it, I didn’t want him to think I was laughing at him when I was really laughing at myself. What’s wrong with us that we measure everything with the same tired yardstick? Why is everything set in inches, ounces, dollars, all rolled into the same predictable equations we think will balance our lives but never do? Why don’t we ever measure anything in our own feet? Why do we hold ourselves up the world, instead of holding the world up to us, the way children do?

The rest of the way to school we were silent, listening to the music of the radio, listening to ourselves. When I checked the rear view mirror, I could see my son dreaming out the window. He was smiling. I think the rest of the day, I never really got out of that car. Even sitting through meetings at work, rushing the pasta aisle of the supermarket, walking the dogs. I had a piece of my son’s smile on my face all day, thanks to a five-foot-long iguana.

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