Dear readers, as we begin the year 2022, I have a surprise for you. Those who subscribe and regularly read my musings know that my writings are primarily an online devotional with an occasional poem or other genre containing a spiritual focus. That’s due to my passion. I’m passionate about my God, Jehovah the one who has forgiven me, rescued me, and healed me.
However, today’s writing does not have the usual spiritual theme or application to it. I’m blessed to live in a community that has a network of writers and writer groups. For a few years, our library has been publishing an annual anthology by authors from the area. The story I share today was selected for the 2021 publication. This is the second anthology I’ve been published in. My intentions are not to change from my devotional writing but rather share something with you that’s only available in book form in my hometown. This piece is a memoir writing—a humorous snippet of my life. Due to the nature of this writing, my post today is a bit longer than usual. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever, and enjoy the read.
“Dad said I could get any pet I want at the pet store, right? Can I. . .” As my daughter talks to me, I am instantaneously transported back to that dreadful moment. In real-time, it happened about as quick as I can snap my fingers. But in my mind plays out at the speed of my dad’s old slide projector. One slide drops, everyone laughs, comments, and remembers the forever frozen moment—click next slide. The mental slide show now playing is no laughing matter or memory I want to be projected larger than life on my mind’s eye. Yet here it is. I can’t turn it off.
# # #
My days were structured; they have to be for a young stay-at-home mother operating a state-registered, in-home daycare. A routine day included parents dropping kids off, greetings, exchanging vital info for the day, getting all kids washed and seated. Then serving breakfast, morning devotions, getting school children out the door, starting a play session with the younger children, letting the dog out, clearing the table, and putting the dishes in the sink.
But one day, I had an interruption to my routine.
# # #
“Oh, Hi.” The rare and unexpected sight of my husband’s mid-morning entrance surprises me. I’m not accustomed to his presence in this part of my life. “Why are you home?”
As he weaves through the house, I learn of whatever forgotten item is the cause of this surprise visit. While making his way toward the home office, little ones begin to follow and gather around as they do for a happy arrival scene of “Daddy’s Home.” Mission accomplished, he shoos hands and faces away from the doorframe while closing the office door, one of the few kid-free zones of our home daycare. He begins navigating his way back out of the house, stepping over and around both toys and toddlers, giving a greeting, a high five, or pat on the head as he goes. He momentarily pauses for direct interaction with one of our toddler clients, who’s chasing our daughter’s dwarf hamster running the house in one of those clear plastic balls. She’s joyfully captivated by the race.
Next, is the slow-motion slide show etched in my memory. Photo image one: my husband, Stanley squatting next to excited toddler. Next image: Stanley opening the hamster ball as the toddler moves in closer. Third image: Stanley gently guides the toddler’s hand to pet the hamster. Without comic superhero powers, there is no way I can halt or intervene the final two images from happening. He passes this cute, wiggly, little hamster into the toddler’s hand as she follows the verbal instruction, “don’t let it get away.”
The five-alarm scene I wish I could delete. The toddler squeezes the hamster with the excitement and thrill of this privileged moment. She’s oblivious and lacking cognitive understanding of why the hamster’s eyes bulge cartoon-like, the miniature varmint’s head droops, and it no longer attempts to wiggle for freedom.
I swallow the fury surging in me, as thoughts and responses fly as fast as shots from a rapid-fire weapon. Unbelievably, I am witnessing a grown man in a panic trying to perform CPR on a dwarf hamster in the palm of his hand. While innocent little ones clamor near asking, “Can I hold it next?” “What are you doing?” “Is the hamster sleeping?” “When is it my turn?”
This melodramatic scene evokes mayhem with my emotions. The ferocity of life for a life abates as I watch him attempt CPR. Then I’m taken on another hairpin turn as I am being asked about whether we should quickly find an identical replacement and pretend nothing ever happened. All to avoid the heart-wrenching pain and tears he expects from our daughter when she gets home from school.
“No, absolutely not! I will not take part in the cover-up of this event. First, who’s to say there IS an identical hamster available anywhere in this city right now. Even if by some infinitesimal possibility there is, who has time to go get it? Not me. I have a daycare full of kids needing lunch soon and you have to go back to work right?”
# # #
My daughter asks, “Can I really get a cat? Dad said I could get anything even a cat. He gave me twenty-five dollars to buy a new hamster or whatever pet I want.”
Nice one dad. Now I’m the villain if I hold to the long-standing NO CATS household rule. And I am the one to suffer either way. Allow a cat and suffer the lifelong allergy symptoms. Refuse what my daughter has been granted permission and funds for and suffer the fallout of that. A lose-lose proposition lies before me.
I had the short drive to the pet store to employ my best persuasive speech. It’s the only remote possibility of coming home with a small caged critter, some fish, anything but a cat.
I answer, “Yes, you can get a cat or kitten as your dad said. Just remember what else we talked about too.”
# # #
Earlier, Dad and I had a private verbal war about this entire incident from the tragic demise of the hamster to the promise of a cat previously off-limits.
“Why did you put the hamster into the hands of a toddler?”
“To see her excited thrill as I let her hold it a minute. I didn’t know she would squeeze it so tight.”
“She’s THREE and followed your instructions to not let it get away. But what’s done is done. We can’t resurrect that hamster. Right now, I’m more upset that you gave our daughter money and permission to get a cat without talking with me about it. Was that to appease your conscience? How can I say no to a cat after you’ve already granted it? I can’t! I’m the one who will have itchy, watery eyes, and trouble breathing. I’m the one who’s at home twenty-four seven. Thanks for thinking about what I’ll deal with—daily antihistamine use.”
I know he felt remorse. The only way we saw possible of our daughter not coming home with something feline was if she thought she could not “afford” it. Dad agreed with me that we would be unified in her purchase of a cat, but we wouldn’t take on the extra costs associated with raising the cat. We already had a dog. Our daughter had some income from babysitting jobs and this was an opportunity to pass along real-life lessons regarding finances and responsibilities.
# # #
I responded to my daughter’s questioning plea, “You can get a cat. Remember there are all the other expenses we talked about—cat food, a litter box, kitty litter, cat toys, shots, and because of the daycare you must get it declawed. All those things will add up too much more than twenty-five dollars.” Our dissuasion plan was put to the test.
When I had gotten into the car, I was fully confident I had a daughter opting for her one-and-only chance of getting a cat, while I lived. To my surprise, as we pulled into the parking lot she stated “I don’t think I will get a cat. It’s going to cost too much. I’ll just look.”
A rush of false guilt floods me. It couldn’t have worked that simply could it?
Inside the store, we begin looking around when an employee asks, “Is there anything I can help you with?”
I respond, “Do you have any cats or kittens?” The employee directs us to the room where there are several caged, happy, and playful kittens. Some reaching their tiny paws out as if to say, “Pick me I want to play.”
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, grandmother, great-grandmother, foster care parent, and trauma survivor. I enjoy sipping tea, writing devotionals, prayers, short stories, and unburdening my heart to the Lord. Check the About section if you want to read more of my story.
Copyright © 2020-2022 Musings of Manette Kay™ All rights reserved. Requests to the author and publisher, Manette Kay, for permission.