In life, few things are more dramatic, or even as dramatic,
as a house filled with several teenage girls and
a drama-loving mama. But this one was.
It was more thrilling than Hollywood. It was more embarrassing than finding one’s diary in enemy hands. And it would land us in the doghouse with our neighbors for a very long time.
Now that things have calmed down a bit, we can all breathe a little easier. But I still can’t stop laughing about the absurdity of it all, or thanking God for resolving things as peacefully as He did.
It all began when I sleepily opened the door to our one and only bathroom, only to see a little grey-brown blur scuttle down the shower curtain. Maybe it was only a bird. A bird I could handle. Literally. Only a few weeks earlier, when I had seen a couple of not-quite-flying fledgling sparrows in the yard, I had fearlessly picked them up and relocated them to a tree, hoping that later, if they still needed help, my husband would allow me to adopt them. I have no problem with little lost birds.
But this blur, I realized, had a thin little tail. Before I even knew what was happening, I slammed the door, shrieking at a fairly high volume, “There’s a mouse in the bathroom. It’s in our bathroom. A mouse is in our bathroom!” Let me tell you, if anyone is looking for a quick way to wake up all their children at once, this is very effective.
Maybe I was wrong. I had been wrong before. And my bladder wouldn’t wait forever. Cautiously, I crept to the bathroom door and flung it open. This time I had my glasses on. In the center of my now-clear vision was a fast-moving in-focus mouse. Was it possible that we had two of them? Either way, it was time to close the door again.
After a short deliberation on appropriate courses of action, I did what every self-respecting housewife would do in my situation: I telephoned my husband. He’s the one who stays calm and handles these kinds of problems so I don’t have to. And true to form, he stayed calm as he informed me he was about to go into a meeting. Promising to invest in glue traps later in the day, he hung up.
Meanwhile, the bathroom continued to be held hostage by a furry intruder. Thinking my parents (who live 700 miles away in Texas) could help, I phoned them. My mom listened to my problem, then asked if we could immobilize the mouse with a broom. Then, in the course of our conversation, I came up with a solution of my own: a year earlier I had bought myself a pair of long, flat-nosed pliers that I used for pulling thorny weeds. Maybe I could use my weed-pulling pliers to grab the mouse by the tail and relocate it to the great outdoors. Or, my mom suggested, we might trap it under a small box, slide a piece of cardboard underneath it, and take it outside that way.
Arming myself with the broom, and my all-purpose pliers, I decided to bite the bullet and go on in. The children had carefully closed all the bedroom doors. If the mouse ran down the hall, perhaps we could chase it out the front door. At any rate, we didn’t want it loose in the bedrooms.
Moving cautiously into the bathroom, I looked for the mouse. There was no sign of him. It was time to take care of business. Praying loudly that God would help the mouse find his way to a happy outdoor home, I sat down and got comfy, only to see the mouse reappear. “The mouse is back!” I screamed. “There’s the mouse!” For some reason, I couldn’t stop screaming these words. Still seated, I grabbed the broom and chased the mouse around the toilet a couple of times before it finally went back into hiding.
Meantime, while I was suffering at high decibel levels through one of the scariest – and at the same time, funniest – moments of my entire life, my helpful children stationed themselves, like little vultures, on the other side of the bathroom door, recording the whole episode on their cell phone.
It was time to get serious. I washed my hands carefully, then recounted the whole thing to Rachel, who was still recording.
Maybe I could borrow a cat from one of the neighbors? Apparently, I was in luck. “Cat!” I called to the black feline lurking just inside the neighbors’ front door. “You’re just the person I wanted to see!” A series of loud knocks, however, was not sufficient to wake the neighbors for their permission. Disappointed, I walked home, catless.
We were on our own. I called my mom for more prayers.
The one thing we did not have on hand was a box for trapping. A small, plastic, trash can from the garage would have to do.
By this time, all four of the children were needing the bathroom. I generously offered to stand behind the shower curtain with my broom and trusty pliers. Things were generally calm, until one of the children screamed, “I can’t use the bathroom! The mouse is in the closet with the laundry!”
We told ourselves it probably wasn’t true. Nevertheless, thirteen-year-old Rachel, who is braver than most, agreed to take out the laundry one piece at a time, using my pliers. Just in case. I stood with the broom in the bathtub, and we told ourselves that the mouse had probably already left. Toward the bottom of the pile, we discovered we were wrong.
Quickly, Rachel shut the closet door, then moved the laundry basket into the hall. We would have to do something ourselves. Surely, the mouse wasn’t much happier trapped in the closet than we were about having it there.
“Are you going to kill it, Mom?” Rachel asked.
“No,” I replied. “I just want to relocate it.”
Remembering the many mice we had killed in glue traps over the years, and the tearful funerals I insisted on having for them afterwards, I prayed that we could avoid killing another furry creature which might otherwise have had a happy life outdoors. If they remembered Eden, then we could hardly blame these creatures for wanting the same comforts that our pleasant house provided for us. And if we moved the mouse outside, maybe he would take the hint and stay there. But, if that didn’t work, then my husband would have no choice but to go ahead and get the glue traps.
We decided to try to capture the mouse ourselves. Rachel armed herself with the broom, while I picked up the plastic box and my pliers. With the broom, Rachel was able to chase the mouse out of the little closet. This was followed by endless litanies of “Mom, you’re so slow! You have to be faster!” “It’s on the other side of the toilet – chase it this way!” “That mouse is really fast!” punctuated by little anxious half-screams. Between peals of nervous laughter and declarations that we would have to “do better next time!” we repeated this cycle more times than I could tell you.
At this point, fatigue was making our acquaintance. I prayed a lot that the mouse would wear out before Rachel and I did. After yet another round of, “That is one fast mouse! Did you see that? You’re going to have to be faster, Mom!” the mouse jumped cautiously to the side of the bathtub, where he lay panting next to various bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel.
This was my moment! Right before the wide, terrified eyes of the mouse, and the shocked, wide eyes of Rachel, I watched myself lean over in slow motion and firmly grab the mouse’s tail with my flat-nosed pliers. Now, with these cold, heartless pliers, I had a good grip on the sensitive section of tail that connected to his back end. You can imagine just how much our little furry visitor was enjoying this. Looking daggers at me, he immediately launched a vigorous dental assault on the iron tool that held him fast.
It was time to move outside. But, in case I lost my grip on the squirming rodent, I carried the plastic box underneath him.
Where to put him? Knowing how quickly he moved, I decided to place him in the bushes of some of the neighbors who had cats. That way, if he caused trouble, their cats would (hopefully) take care of him. And his blood wouldn’t be on my hands. (This seemed like a really practical solution at the time, although, in retrospect, not a Christ-like one. For that I must apologize.)
“Here’s a good place for you to live, Mouse!” I cried, flinging the frightened creature onto the cushioning leaves of small shrubs. “Behave, or the neighbor’s cat will get you!”
Triumphantly, I straightened up, confident that our misery was finally over.
And it would have been. If our dog, Fluffy, had decided to stay indoors. But, no! While I wasn’t looking, she had decided to follow me next door, then had run inside the neighbors’ house to pick a fight with the cat I had been wanting to borrow earlier.
I just couldn’t go in after her.
Knocking frantically, I shouted, “Fluffy, bad doggie! That’s not your house! Come out of there!” And “Leave that cat alone! That’s not your house! Come out, you bad doggie!” After I had sufficiently embarrassed our family for five lifetimes, our recalcitrant canine finally came out, having to be chased, captured, and clumsily carried back into our house.
When I got back inside, the children told me, “You ought to go next door and apologize to the neighbors! I saw one poke his head outside after you left.”
I am now wondering how to word my apology, and what kind of peace offering can possibly compensate the neighbors for their interrupted sleep.
And, I am praying that the mice leave us alone for a while.
Sometime later, feeling bold, I tucked a copy of this story into my little harp bag, which I took with me when my daughter Lizzie and I accompanied my friend Melody to the hospital to visit a friend of hers there. After a few songs on the harp, I offered to read this story aloud to the friend, who graciously agreed to hear it. On the way back home, Lizzie announced, “You know, Melody, that story was soooo much worse than my mom was able to write it! She had a hard time fully capturing the drama we lived through that morning.”
I like to call this story a gross mis-under-exaggeration. : )