Sunday, October 08, 2006

Of Mice And Me

Your comments about mice in this post are making me smile. And they made me remember the mouse-filled part of my life...


Basically, it was all Beatrix Potter's fault.

I read somewhere that, as a young woman, Beatrix used to keep mice inside a closet in her bedroom and she would bring them out not only to sketch them, but to play with them, too. One of the mice she would place on the rim of a lamp and it would enjoy falling down upon her bed which she always moved just below the lamp. It was the mouse's favorite trick (although how Beatrix knew that for certain.....?). Anyway, one day Beatrix placed the mouse on the lamp rim and just as the mouse jumped, she realized she hadn't moved the bed to just below the lamp. The mouse fell to the floor. She gingerly picked him up and he died, slowly, within her hand.

She was devastated and felt guilty for a long time.

I thought about that story for a few months. It was a sad story, yes, but still, it was just a mouse!

And then Naomi brought home two pet mice when she was 20, I believe. The mice were cute--both little girls, one black, one white. She'd hold the tiny, hairy things and it would give me the eebie-jeebies just to watch her. I told her I could never hold a mouse. Not in a million years.

Never say never. Eventually I did hold the black one a few times. It was the funniest mouse--for awhile it was in a cage where it could squeeze its way out and when I'd come in to check on it, the silly thing would take one look at me and race back to its cage and squeeze itself back inside.

And then around 20 months later, Naomi went on a road trip with an all-girl band over to England for a whole month and she needed me to care for the one remaining mouse--the black one. And well, you probably guessed.... It died while she was gone. The morning I saw its still little body, I cried. And more--Beatrix Potter's story about her mice came back to me and suddenly I felt like a house, our house, was just not a home without a mouse in it.

So I went and bought another mouse for Naomi, a white one. I even trained it to submit to being held. Well, Naomi returned from her trip (I'd already told her over the phone about her mouse's demise) and after a couple days, she told me in a "well, uh, I hate to tell you this" kind of way.... She didn't really want another mouse. So the little white mouse became mine.

Two weeks later, she gave birth to nine more little mice.

Oh dear. All of a sudden I was the caretaker of 10 tiny mice. Fortunately, Naomi had extra cages because she'd also recently gone through a hamster stage (she had many hamsters, but one of them used to escape from her upstairs bedroom at the front of the house and all the way down to our downstairs bedroom in the back of the house). There are more hamster stories, but I'll spare you.

So there I was feeling rather like Beatrix Potter, herself. The keeper of 10 mice. Eventually I had to separate all the male mice--male mice are brats! Always one male must be king if you keep them together, and they fought and fought until there was nothing left to do but give each one a cage of his own.

The four female mice--now, they were sweet! They all got along wonderfully and cuddled together and took care of one another. (And I could make a little sermon out of those differences, but I won't.)

But then after a year and a half, the mice began dying, one by one, over a six month period. And with most of the deaths, I would cry. Especially when the mother mouse died, for she had been my favorite. Then I chose another favorite mouse, a male, and as he lay dying I stood over him and petted his tiny back and said, "No, Little Mouse, please don't die." I prayed for him and still he died... and I sobbed. Just sobbed.

And two years after I'd bought the mouse for Naomi, we were once again a mouseless house. (Well, except for the mice I often hear over my head as I sit at this basement computer. The ones I must buy some D-Con for this week--and then feel like a murderer afterward.)

Part of me wanted to start all over again--the part which loved watching the mice run up to the sides of their cages when they would see me. They acted happier to see me than most of the people in my life did. I appreciated that. I enjoyed holding them and listening to my old Bob Hope Radio Show cassettes while I cleaned their cages down here in the basement. They lived down here in their own little room.

But I just couldn't go through all those deaths again.

Yet now, a few years later, I sometimes toy with the idea of keeping mice again when we finally settle in another place (hopefully in the country). The mice were so cute and little and fun.... So who knows?

I mean, like they say.... never say never.

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