As far back as I can remember, my mother has abhorred anything reptilian. The only good reptile is a belt...or purse...or shoe. Turtles, alligators, iguanas, all on the major ick list. But there's a special place in hell reserved for snakes.
When she was young, she spent summers out in the J'ville boonies with her two maiden aunts and their brother.
Her dog was acting crazy one day, trying to stop her from going to the outhouse, finally resorted to knocking her down, and there, curled up ready to strike in the tree root she was about to step over, was a rattler. Fair enough on the fear factor.
There were National Geographic magazines she never read because there was a snake on the cover. If anything snakey came on TV, which was often, because my dad loved him some Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, Mom would pick her feet up off the floor, accompanied by a little scream. We're talking snakes period, not just rattlers, because even plain old garter snakes were evil and capable of climbing out of the television into our living room.
When we lived in Guam, my father was at sea for months at a time and I got to wear the coveted (not) mantle of designated gecko killer (first born short straw again!). For those of you uninitiated with geckos,
they don't just sell car insurance, they can crawl on the ceiling and are very, very fast. So I'm seven, standing on really tall ladders trying to kill something I secretly think is cool, while my mother hysterically points out each new hiding place of the soon to be [she hopes] doomed gecko. By the time I drag the ladder over there, it's moved. And my mother's voice has gone up an octave. Good times.
Because I was a kindly child, I tried to free my mom from the bondage of her phobia by helpfully bringing in objects of her fear - to show her they were really fun and neat!
From the banana tree next to the carport, came an anole lizard
Then, while visiting the very relatives in FL where she almost was snake bit, I, loving, caring child that I am, bring a snake SKIN into the house. Not anything living mind you - I learned that lesson. It was winter and cold outside (for Florida), the kitchen was very warm from delicious cooking activities, and when I walk into the house, my glasses fogged up. Hilarity of the Keystone Kop variety then ensued - a horde of stampeding screaming women out to kill me as I tried to find the back door in a house I was unfamiliar with while basically blind.
Note to self - even though entirely devoid of snake, snake skins are b.a.d. unless they are articles of wearing apparel.
Fast forward to present day. Imagine my surprise when J., the activities director at Wynwood, said Mom had held a snake. But not some run of the mill tiny ole garter snake either. A boa. And not just held it either - had her picture taken with it draped around her neck. Wish I had the picture.
Finally discovered the up side of dementia - curing phobias!