It’s interesting how we attach ourselves to certain things (“things” defined as a person, place or thing). Sometimes you sense it happening and sometimes it sneaks up on you. This week, my chickens looked up at me with 6 pairs of big brown eyes and asked me to take in an orphan baby mouse that was drowning on our driveway during a torrential downpour. I resisted at first (because it’s a flippin’ mouse people), but then they got their notepads out, googled how to take care of a baby mouse, jotted down all the supplies we needed, put the mouse in a shoebox and basically took away any chances for this baby mouse to be rescued by its mother.
So I piled them all into the car and drove to the pet store and loaded up on the supplies. Every two hours I fed little Mouse, and to my surprise he lived through Sunday night into Monday morning. My mom then took daytime duty and decided we needed more supplies and a way to keep Mouse warm. She alternated between a heating pad and a balloon filled with hot water.I checked in throughout the day, and guess what? Mouse was still alive.
The chickens took the night shift on Monday, and my mom got day shift again on Tuesday…but then Tuesday night it was my turn again. Since I hadn’t been home much and really hadn’t seen Mouse since Monday morning, when I did feed him Tuesday night I saw his belly was bloated and his little ribs were showing. He squeaked when I pushed on his belly and he was cold as ice. His little paws that would grab the paintbrush I was using to feed him, no longer grabbed the brush. I got him warm and he curled back up on the washcloth we had in his cage and he looked peaceful as he finally slept.
The saga continued. The chickens took the nightshift again, and when I got back from the gym at 6AM on Wednesday he was still alive. My mom came over and was relieved he was still alive too. We were all rallying behind Mouse, even my husband. My mom wrapped Mouse into a little scrap of fleece material and tried to get him warm again. The chickens and I left for school and work.
I got a text from my mom 30 minutes later…he was gone. She said he took two little gasps of air and then stopped moving.
I realize all of this sounds silly. I do. It’s a mouse. I saw the irony when I was taking a walk at work and saw one of those mole traps planted in the grass. We typically kill these things. They are not welcome visitors. But this little guy was so helpless. I don’t know if it’s basic human nature to take care of the helpless or if it was the idea of not wanting to let the chickens down. I’m not sure. All I know is we all got attached. In less than three days. And we all shed a few tears. (Except for my husband. He sent me a gif of a flushing toilet and asked how I disposed of the mouse.)
I honestly think we have been so inundated with bad news lately that we need these little victories. Something we feel like we can do to make a difference, because lately, the bad that has been happening seems so unstoppable and out of control. This mouse gave us hope. I was so proud of my little girls because they set their alarms and woke up at 1AM and 4AM to feed the little guy. We tried, right? And he died warm and peaceful in my mom’s hands, rather than cold and wet in the driveway.
I form odd attachments to things and once I’m attached it’s hard to let go. So even now, thinking about that damn mouse, I am still sad. The gloomy weather doesn’t help. I would like things to work out the way I want them to work out. I want things to be easy and straightforward. I want to follow the instructions on how to keep a baby mouse alive and see him start to thrive because I did what I was supposed to do. It doesn’t work that way though, does it? No matter what we do, whether or not we follow the rules, things don’t always work out the way we want.
So maybe it’s finding a different story in the outcome. Yes, we failed to save the mouse. But maybe it wasn’t about that. Maybe it was about seeing my girls work together to try to save him. Maybe it was a story about a mom who has a thousand things going on but could still find time to take in a baby mouse and try to save him to be a good role model to those little girls. And in the same breath, remembering that she isn’t as cold as she sometimes thinks she is. And maybe the story is about a grandma who is so caring and nurturing that she teaches me and my girls every day how to have empathy and go all in when you commit to something.
You can laugh and think it’s silly…again it’s just a mouse, but for three days, we all focused on that mouse, we worked together to save him, and we cried together when we lost him. And if we can have that much empathy and compassion for a baby mouse, think what those little girls will do when they are out in the world and find people, whatever their circumstance, needing a little empathy and compassion. When they commit to a cause and go all in. Sometimes life lessons are hidden in odd places, and sometimes it’s worth doing the opposite of what you think you should do to let those lessons reveal themselves.