I had marveled at her beauty a dozen times before, but this was different. This time was special. She was sitting in front of me in her temporary plastic container as we drove home. Every little bump made me tense all my muscles. I didn’t want her to get scared. I figured that for someone as fragile and small as her, driving over a tiny pothole would be like an earthquake. She stared up at me with her curious brown eyes and I met her gaze in awe.
I had waited months to get her, hours of research and planning. Taking trip after trip to the pet store. It wouldn’t have taken so long, but my dad was always busy at work so it was hard for him to find time to go with me. We had to wait to get her so we could set up her terrarium, what was about to become her new home. As we drove, my heart started picking up speed. I couldn’t wait to show her my house, our house. It was the most unbelievable feeling in the world; finally having her with me.
I held my hand over the container at an angle to shield her from the sun. There was no music coming from the radio. No entertaining stories coming from Dad’s mouth. Just silence. But it wasn’t that awkward kind of silence that makes you want to wriggle in your chair. It was that magnificent, magical silence that makes you wish you could freeze time and savor every minute of blissful peace.
After what seemed like ages of trying to hold her as still as physically possible, we reached our little suburban house. My dad fumbled with his keys and we went inside. I carried her carefully up the stairs and into the den. As Dad made some final touches to the terrarium, I showed my mom the new addition to our family.
She was a beautiful crested gecko, with three toes on each little padded foot and a graceful tail almost the length of her body. She had two rows of spiky ridges that created dramatic eyelashes and then cascaded elegantly down her back. Her scales made an intricate orange pattern and her head looked like an ancient arrowhead, with her spectacular little eyes sitting on each side before coming to a gentle curved point where her nose would be. I could feel the vibrations of her every footstep, and I could almost see her tiny heart race inside her body. She was probably the only one who had even worse butterflies than I did.
I pulled off the lid and gently lifted her out. She was as light as a feather and as smooth as a river rock that had been shaped perfectly by Mother Nature’s waters. I set her down cautiously on top of the small log inside the glass terrarium. She just sat there frozen. I noticed that she had turned a very dark, dark brown color. I knew that darker colors usually meant crested geckos were excited or scared. I closed the door to her domain after spraying the inside with warm water from a spray bottle. That way it would be nice and humid like the lush rainforest where she came from.
We left her alone for a while so she could adjust to her new environment. When I got downstairs, Dad asked me what I was going to name her. Wow. I hadn’t thought of that. I decided that I wanted to give her a name that was fitting to her heritage. I wanted it to mean something. I knew from all my research that crested geckos live in New Caledonia, a tropical island to the east of Australia. I did some searching on the computer but couldn’t find out how to say lizard in Polynesian. However, I did discover that the Polynesian lizard god is called Moko. “Moko. Moko.” I tested the word out loud. I loved the way it fit so comfortably in my mouth. It was perfect.
We had to let Moko rest before we could really start enjoying her company, but I sneaked into the den and checked on her before I went to bed. She had climbed high up on the vine that was suction-cupped onto her back wall. She was exploring and had turned back to her brilliant shade of bright orange. That night, I dreamed that I was with Moko in the rainforest. We were laughing and playing in the canopy of the trees, and just peeking through was the moon and the stars, shining brighter than ever before.
I woke with the fluffy feeling of joy and love in my heart, and I knew that Moko and I were going to be happy together for a very, very long time.