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Little Snakes: By Catherine Newman

Little Snakes.jpg“Hibernaculum,” Birdy says again, patiently, after I shake my head at the unrecognized word. “It’s a place where all the snakes are waking up.” All the snakes is not a phrase I’m in love with. Especially followed by waking up. I must shudder visibly, because Birdy laughs. “I know!” she says, and pats me. “It sounds so terrible! I thought the same thing. And it is. But it’s amazing.”

Because this hibernaculum, to which a teacher has taken my daughter’s class, is within walking distance of our house, Birdy, her older brother Ben, their father, and I set off through the woods. It’s early spring, some scraps of ground thawing darkly, some still patchy with ice. We will experience this cold-blooded waking nightmare ourselves in just a minute—but still we pepper ten-year-old Birdy with questions. How many snakes are there? “Fifteen?” she says, making a little más-o-menos sign with her hand. “Maybe fifty? I’m not so great at estimating.” What are they doing? She shrugs. “Just, kind of, being snakes.”

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This entry was written by Catherine Newman

About the author: is the author of the award-winning memoir Waiting for Birdy, and writes regularly for many different magazines , including Family Fun, where she is a contributing editor, Real Simple, and the nonprofit kids’ cooking magazine, ChopChop. Read more at

Catherine Newman

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