LOUISE: The Hamster Hunt
If you raised a child like my oldest, you had lots of furry or slithery critters around your house. Thankfully, much of Aaron’s menagerie stayed outside, but who didn’t have a hamster or two through the years? Aphrodite was Aaron’s first teddy bear hamster. Cute and cuddly, she did all the things hamsters are supposed to do. She ran around her wheel in the cage or in a ball across the floor. She even played calmly in your hands without biting. I don’t remember how long Aphrodite lived but not long enough for my son. He came home from school one day to find her collapsed in her cage. That was one of those, “M-O-M!” moments, where you go running to the bedroom with a baseball bat to make sure no one is trying to kidnap your kid.
Now, I grew up on a farm but we didn’t have hamsters and I certainly didn’t know how to resuscitate one so we grabbed Aphrodite and sped to the veterinarian. Unfortunately, nothing could be done, and of course Aaron wanted another hamster. What good parent would refuse after such a devastating loss? That’s how Athena came to live with us. Yes, Aaron was into Greek mythology at the time.
I have since wondered if Athena realized she was taking another hamster’s place because she was never a happy camper nor was she sweet or charming. No. Athena didn’t like to be petted. She didn’t like to roll around in a ball and though she ran that treadmill in her cage until it squeaked, she did not like being enclosed so she devised a way of escape. Strangely, she didn’t get out during the day. That was her sleep time. But at night, she would slip out of that locked and wired cage like Houdini. Not while you were watching, of course, but late at night so she could roam the house alone.
One night I woke from a sound sleep to feel something crawling up my arm. Lying on my side, I lay perfectly still, praying it was Athena. Gently, I turned my head and saw two little beady eyes staring at me. Figuring I could catch her in the fold of the top sheet if I was fast enough, I quickly flipped the cover forward. But instead of capturing her, that quick flip catapulted her forward so hard that she slammed against the closet door across from the bed, slid to the floor, shook her head and ran out of the room. By then my husband was on his feet wondering what the heck was happening with me sitting straight up in bed babbling about something crawling up my arm then hitting the closet door.
Athena was nowhere in sight, so the next hour involved Aaron and Carl going on a hamster hunt. They were like a posse heading the critter off at the pass then finally corralling and capturing her. Naturally, Athena lived to a ripe old age. So old and cranky that when Aaron went away to college the first thing I did was give Athena to some kids living up the street. Not sure Aaron ever got over that but I finally got some sleep at night.
Today, Aaron has a little girl who is practically a clone of her daddy. She loves every creature on God’s earth. And though I would never wish any kind of calamity on my son, I just can’t wait until the guinea pig that Alex got for her birthday wakes Aaron in the middle of the night.