Marsupials, Mice and Smuggle Time

January 12, 2001

Christmas is over, the new year has begun, and in a few days, daughter eldest, once again enters the airplane humming to herself the smuggler blues.

It seems that only a few days ago, she arrived from the sunny south, critters carefully tucked under a jacket. My Sandra Bullock look-a-like and her babies will be back on the airplane for Phoenix on Saturday.

Tonight my desk looks the same as it did a couple of weeks ago, although this time, the slides are absent, and various CDs are scattered about as I test her new CD burner.

I guess one could look back on this Holiday season and refer to it as Rodent Daze, but not because of the critters Tilly and AnaBelle. Sure I spent plenty of time in daughter's room with my arms stretched out, pretending to be a tree. The marsupials, leaping from person to person, and running along your back, probably have a truly perverted vision of what a forest is all about.

But somehow, through all the years, eldest has had some type of special relationship with small brown furry rodents, aka, mice. To understand some of this year's excitement, I need to take you to another time, a time the my son refers to as "back in the day."

Eldest was on the floor of the basement stretching after her evening run on the treadmill. Spandex, running bra and a t-shirt was the apparel of the evening, when suddenly, something ran down the back of her shirt in the middle of a sit up.

The scream was more than attention getting. Running down the stairs, I had visions of finding a dead child on the floor, and the most obvious suspect was my son, since it was apparent who was doing the screaming. Rounding the corner I found both son and daughter standing on the corner of the couch, son probably more terrified of the screaming, than the rodent that scurried around the corner and into another part of the basement.

Daughter leapt off the couch, tearing the t-shirt from her back and flinging it across the room, all the time dancing, and hopping about. Since I saw the mouse, and was now assured that no one had died, I proceeded to do what any good dad would do, I broke out into hysterical laughter. I guess you had to be there, watching a wide-eyed boy still standing on the couch, watching his sister dance about the room.

Well, as things go, life goes on, and we proceed to the next memory. It turns out that it is my "job" to hang the lights on the Christmas tree (12 feet tall, or don't bring it into the house - dad) and then daughters and son hang the ornaments. Eldest has prided herself in the last several years with being able to get the trim all the way to the top, this year assisted by a new 8 foot step ladder.

As she opened a very small ornament box, she commented that the material inside felt very soft, and said to me, "There better not be a mouse in here. This feels like a mouse nest."

She handed me the box with one arm extended, and her body in the "bolt" position.

Alas, there was no mouse in the box. But sure enough, It looked like a cotton stuffed Christmas tree ornament had been plucked apart into the softest downy material you ever would feel in your life.

Sorry T, I said, "No Mouse."

A cautious hand reached down into the larger box that was filled with ornaments.

Then it happened again. That Scream. THE SCREAM...

And the bolt... again, for the highest ground around.


Ok ok, sure it's in the box.

Son and I had not seen the mouse. So I picked up the large box and tilted it to one side.

Bingo - there it was.

So, being the concerned parent that I am, I decided to carry the box out the front door, and let the mouse outside to "chill."

The mouse, reading my mind, decided that it preferred its chances inside the house with a screaming female on the top of a ladder to 5 degrees below zero.

Bravely it saw an opportunity and took it, leaping from the box and landing on the floor next to my son's bare feet.

And they say white men can't dance.

They can... I know they can. I watched.

I laughed, the mouse tore around the corner of the house into the kitchen and was gone.

"Son, I didn't know you could dance like that."

"I hate mice."

Now I wonder, is that what you call "learned" behavior?

I don't know. But after we decided that the mouse was not to be found in the kitchen, I grabbed my camera to try and preserve another one of those "moments."

After the photo session, daughter could still not be coaxed off her perch, so son and I were left with the job of finishing the tree. Reaching into a cluster of ornaments, I found a very small one of a mouse like critter, I faked the startled jump and scream, and tossed the ornament to my son.

Who says white men can't dance?

He just turned 15, and that six footer can do a two-step like you can't imagine.

He let the object fly right by him and into the tree, and one of the ornaments shattered.

The look on his face said it all... stern as could be mustered...."alright dad... You got me...but you wait."

Learned behavior, you gotta love it.