Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bearing Up Under Stress


If we know each other in “real life” please do not read the rest of this post. Because if you read the following story and I swear you to secrecy, you may have the best intentions, but something could go awry. You could see Margaret and me in the grocery store or at Taco Bell and instead of remembering NOT to talk about her hamster, you might see her and then get hamster on the brain. Suddenly, we’ll be chatting about hamster wheels and hamster treats, and her hamster named Bear.

Or, like me, you could get the urge to blurt out “Hamster!” as soon as you see us, just because it’s forbidden, the way I used to want to hurl my purse over a rickety bridge near my grandparents’ house every darn time I crossed over it. And I would tell myself, “I will not think of hurling my purse over the edge this time,” but then I’d get to the bridge and all I could think of was “Purse! Purse! Throw the purse!” I know I'm not alone in this, right?

So if we know each other in real life, and if the purse story hasn’t freaked you out so much that you wish to "unknow" me, please read no further.

Ok? Great.

So, I decided to clean Margaret’s pet hamster’s cage for her as a love gift. This is along the same lines as when my mother would approach me, hands outstretched, to collect my contact lenses from me and give them their monthly enzyme treatment, because although I was fully capable of doing it myself, she wanted to do something for me.
 
So, feeling virtuous and generous, I decided to clean the cage while Margaret and Tim were at the neighbors’ house. I popped “Bear” into his plastic ball and set about cleaning the cage until it sparkled. Then I got distracted and started packing some more boxes and taping them up. Then I got myself some tea. Perhaps I cruised Facebook. Perhaps.

When I remembered what I’d been doing, I hustled back upstairs to get Bear. My heart sank. All I saw was an empty yellow ball. Empty! My eyes scanned Jack’s room where Bear had been rolling so happily just moments (minutes? A half hour? Days?) before. I felt panic grip my chest.

We cannot lose Bear.

He has been such a bright spot in our lives.  I’m already praying he far outlives his life expectancy. My sister bought him for Margaret a few days after Jack’s accident. He was four months old, and that was almost two years ago. Hamsters live 2-2.5 years. Oh my. He seems pretty spry, and with the exception of his uh, male undercarriage, growing exceedingly large, he looks about how he did when we got him.

Anyway, I started scouring the room in a panic. I couldn’t think straight. I looked at the weird 3 inch gap under the door that a freakin’ hedge hog could probably squeeze through. I thought of the chaos all over the house, from the bedrooms down to the basement. If Bear found a cozy box to crawl into, and I taped him in there, what kind of surprise would we find when we moved in a week or so? Or, what if we didn’t find ever find him? What if the new owners, sensing a rodent on the loose, set out a mousetrap and? And? Did I tell you they have two cats? Or what if Shadow the dog had already gulped him down in one bite while I’d been enjoying my tea? Did she look full? Did she look guiltily satisfied?

I wasn’t sure how to start looking, because I had Shadow in her usual location-- up my skirt. Everywhere I looked, she looked too. If I tried to shut her up in another room so I could search more quickly, what if I shut her up with Bear?

So I grabbed Shadow by the collar and dragged her to each pile of boxes, clothes and the stacks of crumpled packing paper. Even in his chubby state, I knew Bear could probably run fast and that my time was running out. I grabbed the phone and called Tim and told him to come help me. I forbade him to tell Margaret what was going on.

He calmly walked in the room and said everything was going to be fine.

Did he not see the boxes everywhere? The air vents of death? The dresser drawers? Did he not know that with both a move and middle school looming, we do not need a dead hamster?

We moved Jack’s bed away from the wall. Would we find him driving a toy car or running through a Lego scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? No dice.

Tim leaned under Jack’s dresser. “I see him. He’s fine.” And he was.

Thank you, Jesus. Yes, I’d prayed about a hamster. In fact, I have no qualms if we ALL pray that Bear sets a hamster longevity record.

I haven’t told Margaret anything, and I’m thinking it’s in my best interest not to.

I just wish I didn’t want to blurt out, “HAMSTER!” every time I saw her.

 

60 comments:

marlu said...

You have a gift for writing. I hope you know that.

Blessings on you, your family and the hamster.

LauraBeth said...

Oh goodness! I will be sure to keep mum around C so she doesn't say anything to Margaret. So glad you found Bear, and praying for a Hamster longevity miracle!

I'm off work next week... Lemme know if you need me and/or my pickup to help... We'll be there with (figurative) bells on!

Continued prayers for you, Tim, Margaret, and Shadow as you move to your new home, and for Margaret (and C) as they start school, and for you all as September arrives...

With love, hugs, and prayers from the other side of town...

Anonymous said...

Is that a hamster in your purse? ;)

Jenny Hart Boren said...

When my three were younger, Sam had a hamster he called Punkin. She was not an exciting pet, but she was cute and tolerant and slept a lot. At Christmastime while the kids were at their father's, Punkin went to sleep and didn't wake up. I was sad, but grateful that she waited to kick down until they were gone. Because it was really cold, and also raining, I scratched up some dirt back by the fence and made a small pile of stones and wrote "Little Punkin" on one rock with a Sharpie, and wrapped her up and put her in the dumpster. I'm sure they (all in the twenties) still believe I buried the little critter. Your secret is safe with me.

Recovering Church Lady said...

O I am so glad this story had a happy ending! I have a deep dark pet secret too. I think most parents do sooner or later. Nope not even telling mine here where it is safe from my grown kids eyes. Zipped forever! :)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you found him!! When I was younger I had a hamster I would take out to play with once a day. I took him out then brought him over to this "Barbie cabinet" I had. I must've gotten distracted...The next day I went to get my hamster from his cage and he wasn't there. I had left him in the Barbie cabinet the day before - no water, no food, ugh!! An 8 year old learned a lesson that day :-) Thankfully he was alive! :-)

Catherin said...

Your gift for writing took me on quite the frantic journey. :) Your secret is safe with me--may this be the last stressful situation before you move.
Thank you for sharing your gift.

Christy said...

Oh Anna. Oh Bear. Even in the midst of your grief you manage to CRACK ME UP. Love you to bit and pieces! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Our then 10 y.o. daughter insisted we bury Brownie in a 2nd Ave. Deli gift salami box. We did. He was the Methuselah of hamsters. Had 4 birthdays.

Penny said...

About 20 years ago my youngest son had his hamster out, in the upstairs of my two story house and for some reason that I can't remember now, there were no covers on the floor vents! The hamster disappeared,so we searched and searched, then I went downstairs and as I was walking by the heater I could hear scratching noises! Yep, he was in the heater by the fan area. I immediately turned off the heater as I could just imagine what might happen if it turned on with him in there. I was unable to get him out so I had to call a HVAC company to make an emergency call! On the receipt they wrote "Charge for removing hamster from heater"!

I'm really glad that you found Margaret's hamster and that it all ended well. I will be thinking of you as you move.

Anonymous said...

Our hamster would occasionally pull a Houdini and somehow escape out of his ball when we weren't watching. He even survived a trip down the stairs when I also somehow forgot he was cruising around in it. Glad everything turned out OK.

Anonymous said...

When I am working my hands in Heavenly Father's sacred ground, my vineyard in the mountains....I think "Eagle"....when I think and pray for Jack. The eagle's wings anoint my face with the breath of Heaven. I am thankful to know him still. I feel the peace of God within my soul, and will always think...Eagle....on Eagles' wings...we will rise on harvest wings.

Anonymous said...

Stressful for you no doubt, but you made it hillarious for us to read about! Prayers for an easy move!

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

I think you should tell her, someone is going to, you don't have to give her every detail. I have lived that story on too many occasions, yours had a much happier ending tho! As for the purse thing, I was just telling my daughter that every time I go on an overpass or bridge I feel like I am going to jerk the steering wheel and crash thru the guard rail. (We just drove thru 3 states that have more bridges than I have ever seen!!!) My friend who works at a church is afraid she is going to blurt out a not so nice word during worship. Craziness!

Laura at Ms. Smartie Pants said...

OH and our hamster lived 5 1/2 years :)

Stimey said...

I read this while holding my breath and with my hand over my mouth. Phew! I am so glad that you found Bear. And I am sending wishes for a loooong life for him.

Jenn said...

Loved this and promise not to say the word if next time I see you she's there. But, I might have to tell you about Blondie some day. Let's just say, I'm so glad your hamster story had a happier ending. ;)

Mariah said...

Sorry, this was entertaining...Thank God you found the hamster. Tell Margaret about 10 years from now or so. She might find it amusing then!

Brandi said...

We had a very unfortunate incident with Harry Plopper. Our weenie dog murdered him while my young son and nephew watched, wide eyed. It was horrid. Always monitor your hammy in the ball.

Jamie Reese said...

Oh, that was great! Seriously though, NOTHING can happen to the pets! When my cousin left the hospital to go back and put some of the baby gear in the bedroom, my only rules were don't get rid of it and nothing can happen to my dog! So, so glad Bear has been found and that Margaret's none the wiser

Delenn said...

Those little guys go fast! This reminds me of the time my son started kindergarten, and the 2nd day I decided to clean his turtle cage--and I lost the turtle. For a week. My son and a friend found her when I was sure she was an ex turtle.

Glad it turned out okay!

Michelle DeRusha said...

Right now, 9:30 p.m. CT, my husband is at the emergency vet with our pet lizard, Frill. No lie. So yeah, I totally get what you're saying.

Michelle DeRusha said...

Also, when Rowan's snail died, we bought him one that looked exactly the same when he was at school. Only my husband and I knew he was actually Gary II.

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

I completely agree with the "not telling Margaret" thing. I would have been freaking out (and saying many hamster prayers) just like you. Oh, the things we will do to keep our kids happy :)

Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense said...

Oh WOW. I REALLY did not foresee that ending well. Yes, thank GOD. (Is it horrible that I was cracking up the whole time I was reading it though? I'm sorry, "air vents of death?" teehee)

<3

Nelson Armstrong said...

This is lovely. I'm so glad you found him. Great post.

tracy@sellabitmum said...

YAY BEAR! Thank goodness!

NanaDiana said...

Oh the tragic comedies of everyday life. xo Diana

middle child said...

On the plus side....at least no one put the hampster in the microwave and "accidentally" pushed the start button.
Sad but true.

Kat Biggie said...

I loved that line "Yes, i just prayed about a hamster!" I think it's sweet that you were so concerned for your daughter. And, I am so much like you. Any place there is a red button that you aren't supposed to touch, or a fire alarm, I cannot help myself. I am drawn to them. I want to pull them, but I don't! HAMSTER!

Japolina said...

What a funny story. So glad it had a happy ending!

Lady Jennie said...

May Bear live for a very, very long time.

(wipes sweat)

Anonymous said...

Friends just experienced the death of their hamster. It was 4 1/2 years old. There is hope that Bear lives a long (hamsterish) life!

Eliza said...

Hooray for Bear! He must have thought it a thrilling adventure. I would have been panicking just like you did... Pets are so important! I hope you have a wonderful weekend Anna.

Kristie said...

This has nothing to do with the H-word, but I just read a book that was recommended by The Read-Aloud Handbook and kept thinking of you and Margaret while I read it. It's called Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park and is written in the voice of a 12-year-old girl whose brother has died in a bike accident. If she hasn't read it already, it might be a helpful thing for Margaret to read.

One crazed mommy said...

Yay - so glad you found bear! We had a hamster when I was growing up, and we used to call him Houdini because he could escape his cage. We went on a trip to my grandmothers, and we were gone almost a week. Before we left we put plenty of food pellets, plenty of water, had fresh wood chips in his cage...and not only did we tape the metal door closed, we placed a heavy wooden mallard duck decoy on top of it for safe measure. I'll be darned, when we got home the duck was lying on it's side, the door wide open and no hamster to be found. I cried just knowing he was dead. Nope - after less than 10 minutes in the house my dad found him behind a small dresser in my bedroom happy as can be to be roaming around free. I have NO idea how long he had been out, but he was just as content as could be. So glad you were able to find Bear safe and sound! :) Just think...one day you will have a funny story to share with Margaret - today might not be the day, but one day you can shout out HAMSTER! :)

Mexmom said...

I'm so glad this story has a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

I love you, your writing, and your urge to yell "HAMSTER." My childhood story of an escaped hamster involves my brother's hamster "Wally." He escaped, we searched, we did not find him, we mourned, 3 MONTHS passed, and we found him under a chest of drawers! He had morphed into a crazy feral hamster! We could only wonder HOW he survived - what on earth did he eat?! My mother severely questioned our housekeeping. Getting Wally back into his cage involved oven mitts, and it was some time before he was rehabilitated back into a domestic pet! Thank you for making me laugh out loud! Love and appreciation from San Luis Obispo, CA

Jenny Hart Boren said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsJiGF_Groo&feature=player_embedded

Couldn't stop myself...

Lisa C said...

Hahahaha....I laughed all the way through, while holding my breathe just a little, hoping you found him :)

Yay!

ashleyerin said...

When I was in third grade my sister and I got gerbils. She named her Jerry and I named mine Lucky (Lucky because he was going to live unlike my hamster, Teddy, that had died exactly one week after I got him.) Our family was moving into a new house and when my mom picked us up from school one day, she told us she had some sad news. Apparently while they were moving boxes, Lucky and Jerry's cage was tipped over and they ran out our open front door to find their family in the woods (we lived in the dessert at the time). And I happily believed this sweet tale until college. Sophomore year when my mom slipped and told me about the time she walked into the living room to see Spot, our dog, tearing into a million pieces.... So Bear? He could have had it worse. I on the other hand choose to believe my sweet little gerbils live happy lives in the woods of West Texas.

anymommy said...

Oh my, I am so glad that one had a happy ending!

Heidi said...

Poor you! I'm glad to read that Bear is safe and Margaret is oblivious.

We don't have any pets and Annie desperately wanted a fish, so she saved up and worked hard to get this fish. We made trips to the pet store to scout out the fish - which one should she get? She finally got her fish and it became sickly in 2 days. Like barely moving sickly. We took it back and the store was nice enough to give us a replacement fish. Well, that fish died 3 days later. Scott gave her the money back and the tank is in our basement. So, what I'm trying to say is yay you! Because Bear is alive. Not only that, you persevered. We are giver-uppers around here. You've done much better than we could ever do.

You are such a gifted storyteller.

Marinka said...

HAMSTER! HAMSTER!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

As always your writing takes me in and I lose all track of my thoughts.
So, so glad that you found Bear and I will be praying for his long life!

IrishRN07 said...

Too funny! I can't make any promises if I run into you two at Giant some day!!

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

Thank you for the entertaining story and the happy ending.

Beth said...

Thank you for the reminder that we do NOT need a hamster at our house! With the rate at which we lose cell phones, car keys, beloved Lego minifigures... a hamster would not ever be found again if he got lost.

SouthMainMuse said...

My sister had the hamsters growing up. They were forever getting out and tunneling up into the furniture. We always managed to find them. Glad Bear is back under lock and key.

Kim said...

I am both laughing and tearing up from the stress! I am glad you found him and I will start praying for a world record length of life for Bear!!

LisaAR said...

"Air vents of death." Classic.

There is something about hamsters that must bring out the crazy in parents. When I was a kid, my dad accidentally killed my pet hamster by painting with oil-based paint too close to the cage. After fessing up to the mistake and giving him a proper burial in the GARBAGE (?!), they later read that night that the hamster could be hibernating. So my mom and dad dug my hamster out and built a fire in the fireplace in the middle of July and watched that little guy remain stiff for the long haul. This is just one of the crazy hamster stories in our family. Glad to know we are not alone!

Arlene said...

Loved the story! We have our share of pet stories too. What we don't do for our kids! We had a crawdad (large one) escape in the middle of the night (did you know they can really jump high?) and get in the furnace vents not once, but twice. I was awakened in the night by a "scritch, scritch, scritch" sound comiing from the register vent. The first time, it took us forever to figure out what the noise was. Picture us in the basement looking up saying "whatever it is, it's right about here" and then upstairs on the floor looking in the registers with flashlights. Finally something came crawling into sight - a big yucky looking thing and here it was a crawdad COVERED in furnace fuzz/dust. OK, now we're wide awake for the rest of the night.... After it happened the second time, Mr. Crawdad took a little trip back to the creek where he lived happily ever after.

Lyndsay said...

Thought of you this weekend. I spent all day Saturday with a friend who's SURPRISE 40th birthday was that night.
BIRTHDAY! BIRTHDAY! BIRTHDAY!

Thrift Store Mama said...

I know you didn't mean it to be funny, so I'm sorry I was laughing so hard. Good thing I don't know you IRL (and that I moved to Colorado) because if I ever saw you and Margaret, I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to think of anything else BUT "HAMSTER, HAMSTER, HAMSTER" !!!

Alli said...

This cracked me up! If it makes you feel better, I once bought two hamsters for my classroom. Hamster guy at the pet store assured me they would only live 2 years. The hamsters lived with me through 5 years of first graders, two moves, and the birth of my first child. OLDEST HAMSTERS EVER! Best of luck!

Nancy said...

So glad you found him. I lost a gerbil named Bear. Young son away on an overnight and I decided to clean the cage as a surprise because tomorrow was his birthday. Some surprise, I forgot to close the lid tight :/
Never did find the poor little guy.

Arnebya said...

Wishing you luck and patience with today's move. And hoping Bear doesn't get loose again. And you just had to add a rodent picture, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?

Riham said...

It's September Anna... you'll be in my prayers in the coming days...

Greta @gfunkified said...

What a nightmare! Rodents are such good pets, and also, really frustrating pets. My brother's guinea pig took up residency in the couch for a while once when I was little.

Anonymous said...

Today I stole your tradition of the held up piece of paper with the Grade written on it. My Jack is going into 2nd grade and little brother started K. I realized I will not remember what year our front porch photos are if I don't do this. Thanks for the tip!! This is one of many 'traditions' I've pilfered off of you.

Good luck with a new school! NoVa Mom Jen