………………about the day’s events and wondering if I should share with you a saga that will have me grinning and shaking my head for the rest of my life. I think I will. It went like this…..
My nearly-teenage daughter was struck down with a bad cold and was allowed to stay home today. At ten to nine I went in to check on her before I went to work down the road for the morning. As I bent over her, feeling her forehead and lovingly but firmly chanting the usual spiel (like: here is the house phone, and here is your mobile and here are the keys and here are your tissues and here is a fresh bottle of water and make sure you drink it and you know the rules blah blah blah) I read the message that was emblazoned across her face as clear as only a teenager can make it (like: Yes Mum, Yes Mum, DO NOT DISTURB ANY LONGER).
Feeling guilty, as only a mum can, I loaded the car and left. Less than fifteen minutes later, already ensconced in work, my mobile vibrated itself off the table and I answered to the very wide awake and excited voice of my daughter. ‘Mum! Mum! I’ve just caught a little mouse! I rescued it from Christopher! (ginger tabby). Oh! He’s SOooo CUTE!
‘You did! How wonderful!’ sighs very proud mother. Child is protégé. I’ve rescued countless wildlife over the years from the clutches of cats, dogs, bushfires, etc. Even rescued a mouse myself once. It had gotten caught up in the plastic bag of a fresh loaf of bread in a corner deli.
‘Well, what have you put it in?’
‘Oh – a jar, a big one, but I’m going to make a home for it in this shoe box I found in the hall cupboard. I’ll put sand and grass in it and give him some cheese.’
‘That’s great Chloe, be careful he doesn’t squeeze his way out of the shoebox. OK?
Shortly I received a text message. ‘His name is Gerry’.
Half an hour went by and then another text message. ‘Mum, if you were a mouse, where would you hide?’
Another half an hour and a more reassuring text message came through. ‘Found him!’
Collective sigh from my students and I.
Not long after, I arrived home to utter chaos – the evidence of a frantic mouse hunt. And there was Chloe, sitting quietly on the lounge with the tiniest, most beautiful creature relaxed and placid on her knee, while she stroked his delicate little head with her finger. He was truly gorgeous. Adorable little ears and sweet little eyes. Cute whiskers twitching, long tail draped over Chloe’s thigh.
‘He’s gorgeous Mum, he’s just sitting in my hand and he was up on my shoulder before you came in.
I melted. He was exquisite. I held him in the palm of my hand. He scurried up my arm. I wanted to paint him. Just sit and sketch him at all angles and then paint him. What a perfect study. What a great picture. But no, no time. Must decide what to do with our ‘Gerry’.
Regretfully, he’d have to go back to ‘the wild’, but although our garden befits that title, we decided it was too dangerous. Christopher the Cat lives there and by now we’d grown quite attached to our little rescuee and his safety was paramount. So for Gerry it was going to be the full Witness Programme treatment and he was whisked away from his family and off to the Wireless Hill reserve. The last we saw of him was his gorgeous tail disappearing in the undergrowth.
But the tale doesn’t end where it should!
We had to go to Garden City after that, and I allowed myself to be bullied and prodded in to the pet shop where various species of furry rodents were assembled in little wire houses. In one cage a few creepy rats lay curled and furtive, their ugly, beady eyes staring belligerently out from sharp and nasty heads. Their revolting tails long and slightly hairy, reminded me of old wizened skinny parsnips. They make me shudder, but Chloe thinks they’re gorgeous and assured me that I’d soon get used to them. Now I’m not as green as I’m cabbage-looking and, really, I CAN stand my ground sometimes. This was one of them. But I have an enquiring mind and I was curious and some other little creatures had caught my eye. Above the rats sat a cage of the dearest little mice. They were exquisite and all looked the image of little ‘Gerry’. And so I asked the assistant what exactly was involved in caring for mice. ‘Oh! They’re easy enough, she shrugged, ‘But they’re not responsive. You can’t nurse them, or play with them or pat or stroke them. They just run away. Now rats! Rats are much better. You can play with them. They’ll respond to you. They love to be stroked and petted and they’ll sit on your hand or your shoulder. They really do make the most wonderful pets.
‘Oh YUK no’ I replied adamantly, my lip curling in disgust. ‘How revolting! Nasty creatures!’ I spat with vehemence. ‘No,’ I said, softening, ‘It’s these gorgeous little mice that I’m a bit interested in’.
‘They’re not mice, smiled the assistant, ‘They’re baby rats!’
Oh shhhh …..ugar!