Geckos are the new Xanax

I am over-the-top, give-me-a-bucket-of-Xanax terrified of roaches. And I live in Hawai’i. [sigh] Doesn’t matter how clean your house is, at some point you’re going to find a roach.  I found one in a kitchen drawer. I’ve ducked as one has flown into the garage. The first one I killed was walking slowly by Maka’s kennel like he owned the place. I smashed him with Emery’s size 10 Birkenstocks sandal and immediately posted my victory on Facebook.

Roaches come in several different varieties. And all of those varieties make me run screaming and hyperventilating until Ric scoops the offender up in his hand and throws it outside. He refuses to smash them, no matter how much the girls and I beg. As far as I’m concerned, the only good roach is a dead one.

That’s where geckos come in handy.

Having geckos in the house is a good thing. Geckos eat roaches. More snacks for them, less Xanax for me. Ric says they make a particular sound when they’re banging a big roach against the wall in a Godzilla vs. Rodan battle to the death. I haven’t heard that sound yet, but they are welcomed to pummel their prey however they see fit if that means another roach bites the dust. I have heard their “chirp”, though. It sounds more like a “clicking” sound, and for the first couple of weeks after my arrival I had attributed it to the local birds. Imagine my surprise when I found out the noise was coming from my roach-slaying buddies. Ric swears they can throw their voices and make you think they are on the other side of the room.

When we first moved into our home, I was fascinated by each gecko and lizard that we found in an around the house. Our first visitor was a lizard, whom the girls promptly named “Leo” (ironically, that was the name of their great-grandfather). We’d watch him sneak out to soak up the morning sun and then run back into the hole at the bottom of the front door jamb. The only non-humans that I’ve ever willingly shared a space with have been cats, a suicidal beta fish and most recently, our two dogs, Maka and Bella. Clearly, these reptiles lived in and around the house long before we did, so I was thankful that they let us inhabit the larger living areas of their home.  I took pictures of them, and stared at them in fascination. Then I realized that they aren’t house-broken and discovered that they crap everywhere. Including the ceiling.

We have two house geckos that the girls have named Gigi and Geo. Gigi is the more “full-figured” of the pair and so is fast that I can never get a picture of her.  Geo is smaller, and freezes when he sees people. We think he freezes because he might be slightly tame. He let Ric pet him for a few seconds before the kids came rushing into the room, scaring him back into his hiding place. Geo lives the girls’ bathroom. Gigi lives behind the refrigerator. How do I know? Gecko crap.


Kahea used to be terrified of all animals, but since moving to Hawai’i has become “The Gecko Whisperer”. This little baby gecko was content to stay on her hand.

There is one word in the Hawaiian language for “lizard”–mo’o–even though there are several species of lizards/geckos on the island. The mo’o is thought to be ‘aumakua or a spirit guardian “who protects their descendants from danger or sorcery, heals sickness or wounds, and forgives transgressions.” Other ‘aumakua reveal themselves often in the forms of pueo (owl), mano (shark), honu (turtle) or puhi (eel). Although the mo’o of Hawaiian legend was black and between 12 and 30 feet long, the more diminutive house gecko will often reveal itself as an ‘aumakua in a Hawaiian household. If it does, it needs to be protected. That means if Gigi and Geo are the ‘aumakua of our household, Maka can’t eat them.

My sister-in-law is as terrified of geckos and lizards as I am of roaches. Last week she flew to the Philippines to spend time with family, and to her surprise, she discovered a gecko in her luggage. She was too freaked out to unpack for a couple of days for fear of coming face to face with her little stowaway. I said, “Maybe geckos are your ‘aumakua?” Knowing we had house geckos that we had named she said, “Yours, too!” And then I wondered what it would be like to have an ‘aumakua that terrifies me? Would that be my ancestors telling me to push past my fears?

What if a roach was my ‘aumakua?

I think I would die.

And it probably wouldn’t be a good thing that I smashed one to smithereens last night while Gigi and Geo were out on a bathroom break.



Kawaharada, Dennis. “‘Aumakua of Kona, O’ahu”. Traditions of O’ahu: Stories of an Ancient Island. September 2010. Asia-Pacific Digital Library.


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