We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. – Walt Disney
In one month’s time we will close the front doors on our little Mouse House for the last time. Our family will relocate to the Pacific Northwest, an abrupt u-turn from the desert dwelling we’re so accustomed to. It’s a daunting endeavor – saying good-bye to our home, launching ourselves on a continental ‘walk-about’ with five children in tow.
These same children are mystified as to why we want to move. They have no memory of any home other than this one. They can draw the Mouse House from memory, tell you how many different colors we’ve painted the family room (seven); where Eli was when he threw the brick that almost sliced off Noah’s toe and sent Lorraine running into the closet to hide; or how one morning we came downstairs to find a gushing waterfall from the upstairs bathroom dousing our kitchen island in a scene reminiscent of Niagara Falls. They can color in the blooming Bougainvillea creeping over the blue front doors just the right shade of fuchsia, while remembering to pencil in a discarded scooter on the front porch or toys tumbling out of the three upstairs windows lining the garage.
This specific set of boxed walls, on this exact spot of land, is what they know. An address intimately known by the local mice as well. This is because our house backs up to the Mighty Temecula Creek, a mostly dry riverbed that scores of mice consider rambling grounds to their very own riverfront property. And so, even though we pay taxes on this land, and call it our own, and doll it up with lights and paints and billowing curtains, The Mouse House is really just another Southern California time-share where the mice claim just as many days as we do. Or more.
Since the day we moved in, we’ve been waging a never-ending battle with the nervy, darting little creatures. They run through our halls at night, so that one evening after checking on my twins I almost stepped on one coming out of the bathroom. They take up residence in our cars and chew on the wires. They dart into the house and head straight for the computer room, apparently wanting to check Facebook as much as any other living creature does now. My five-year-old niece Holland recently left our house and stepped straight down onto a mouse, squashing it to death right on our welcome mat.
More than ten years ago Eli was out one day on the newly poured cement patio, riding his tricycle around and around our circular path, when he hit and instantly killed a mouse scuttering across the path like a little old woman out doing her afternoon shopping. When your three-year-old is mowing down mice with a Big Wheel, which he can barely pedal, you know you have a lot of mice.
As years passed our resident rodents grew more daring. At some point a wily bunch took up living in my piano. Damon had to pull the whole thing apart and vacuum it out while I stood by in mute horror, not knowing whether to cry or have my boys stay up all night with their Nerf guns armed and loaded.
Over the course of the past fourteen years, Damon has set out hundreds of mouse traps, and it’s no way to live, wondering how many mice you’ve snapped in half each night.
The worst psychological mouse encounter happened years ago. All five kids were strapped into the car for the morning school run when I spotted a mouse with its leg caught in a mouse trap sitting in the middle of my garage floor. The mouse was very much alive and trying to walk, dragging the wooden trap clamped on its leg slowly, painfully across the concrete. It would move inches and then stop and be very still. I froze and felt my eyes filling with tears. The mouse peered directly at me with its shiny brown eyes. I ran and got into the mini-van and backed out in a panic, shutting the garage door on the terrible tragedy that was that poor mouse. I drove the kids to school in a daze all while saying to my anxious children, “Don’t worry, the mouse will be ok,” even while I knew it was doomed. Then I called Damon at work and cried and felt ashamed for not knowing what to do with the mouse, how to put it out of its misery. I cried, too, when I thought of how that plot of land previously had been that little mouse’s rightful home. Who had more rights to this little patch of earth?
Now we are leaving, headed for a new horizon. I hear there are great big, Norwegian rats where we’re going. I shudder at the thought of time-sharing with them! But we are all creatures, after all, the mice and rats and us humans, too, and creatures are curious indeed. So when a door opens, we want to go through it. Now we pack up. We start anew. We journey off into the great unknown. And we thank the mice for sharing their grand Mouse House with us during all our mutual nest-building years.