Sam and I were cleaning out the car today, while Lily climbed around among all the debris we’d removed from our own little Tobacco Road. I was clearing receipts, wrappers and toy bits from the front console and Sam was vacuuming Lily’s car seat when, over the roar of the wet/dry vac, I hear “Something’s really scaring me, Mommy!” There’s an undertone of panic, and I move fast. On the ground, in front of the vacuum I see a small, slimy thing. I bend closer. Is it a slug? A slug in Lily’s car seat? Noâ€¦it wriggles, and I shriek, and Sam begins to cry in earnest. I get a grip on myself.
“Honey, no. I’m not scared. It’s a baby mouse, that’s all. A baby mouse.”
Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck, where did it come from, what am I going to do about it?
I look around, and realizeâ€¦there are actually five of them, scattered on the ground. I hear squeaking. Oh, no. This is not good.
Holly, babysitter extraordinaire, arrives opportunely and whooshes Lily off, but Sam does not want to be whooshed. What are they? What will we do? Did he do something wrong? Is Mommy scared, too?
What WILL Mommy do? And did they come out of the car seat? There’s a little pile of hair and fur and fluff that was probably a nest–how could that have come out of the car seat? Admitedly, the degree of filth it’s acquired in just a few weeks use is stunning, and there are enough goldfish and fruit bar bits in my car to feed a whole army of mice, which is partly why we’re doing thisâ€¦
OK, what WILL Mommy do?
“Sam, I’m going to find a piece of paper, and scoop them up, because it’s not good for people to touch mice.”
He looks frightened. “I touched it, Mommy.”
“OK. We’ll go wash your hands.” We do. Now that there’s a plan, he seems interested. “Here’s a piece of paper!” Ah, the receipt from today’s car inspection and the embarrassing impetus for this operation.
Running back, Sam steps on a baby mouse and squishes it. He doesn’t notice. I scoop that one up first (Yuck) then the others (yuck, yuck, yuck, mice are not my department, they are Rob’s department, why do I have to be brave? Yuck.)
Ok, now I have a bag full of baby mice, and Sam is looking at me expectantly. “Sam, I finally say, “I don’t think they are going to make it.”
Oh, this is just great.
“I don’t think they can live outside their nest. They’re too little. I think they’re going to die. But you know, mice, when they’re inside, are like bugs. They don’t belong inside. It’s ok that they die. I feel bad, though, a little.”
“Well, because they are living creatures, and I wish they didn’t have to die. I wish the mouse had made a nest outside, instead of in our vacuum (thinking it over, it must have been on the vacuum, which has been sitting in the garage, a known mice haven, unused for over a year).
I still have a bag full of mice. “Do you want to finish vacuuming Lily’s seat now, or start on the car?” Back on the horse, boy.
“OK. Go pick a good dirty spot.” He runs to the car, and I put the bag on the ground and stomp on it. I turn around. He’s watching me.
“Do you want to know what I’m doing?”
“I’m squishing them. Because if they have to die, I don’t want them to hurt.”
“Because it’s better that it be quick. If I have to do it, I think it should be fast.” I have no idea what he makes of that, but I am trying to walk a fine line between lying and ‘need to know’.
He seems fine. “You were very brave,” I say.
“With the mice. I know they were a little scary, but it’s good you found them.”
“Because they don’t belong in our house.”
I check the vacuum cleaner over for more surprises, and we finish the car. I tell him what a great job he did, and send him off to the swing set to find Holly.
Just another day of life and death for the four-year-old.
The car looks great, though.
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