Hamster Meets Mini-Houdini
By Connie Cavanaugh –
Our three-year-old granddaughter Madi’s middle name should be Houdini. The minute you turn your back on her, she floats away, opens a door more quietly than a safe cracker, slips out and flees! Several frantic searches over the last year have found her happily riding a tricycle down the middle of the street in winter wearing nothing but a diaper, exploring a neighbor’s backyard while frolicking with their dog, or nibbling a snack and playing the Wii in her auntie’s basement a few doors down from Grammy’s house.
That’s why I was a little nervous about leaving her with Papa for an hour while I went with my son and his dogs to the off-leash park. It was Mother’s Day and my daughter, Madi’s mother, needed some rest after a busy weekend of ministry with her youth group and worship team so I gladly volunteered to bring Madi home after church and keep her for the afternoon.
Before leaving for the dog park I made sure Papa understood he must not take his eyes off her for a minute. I locked the door leading outdoors from the family room. Off I went for a happy hour of watching two dogs run, roll, chase balls, splash in the river, shake water all over me, get covered with dirt which quickly became mud, and if dogs could grin, I would say they had grins a mile wide. What apartment dwelling dog doesn’t love an hour of unbridled freedom?
When I got home, windblown and chilly but heart-warmed and happy, the first thing I saw when I stepped inside the house was my wild-eyed husband charging up the stairs from the basement where I had left him and Madi sixty minutes earlier. He was carrying a shoebox.
“I just dropped her off at Christine’s house,” he wheezed. The shoebox he clutched rose and fell on his heaving chest, Christine is our other daughter who lives nearby.
“What’s in the box?” I asked.
Wordlessly, he lifted the lid. I peeked inside.
“Is that what it is?” he asked. “I thought it was a mouse at first but it looked too well fed so my next guess was a gerbil.”
“Where did it come from?”
“According to Madi? Louisiana!” he replied, shaking his head.
The story unfolded. Papa decided to watch a movie with Madi while Grammy was out. A dangerous idea since television is like a narcotic for Pastor Papa, but on Sunday afternoon, TV works faster than Nembutal delivered intravenously. The movie had barely begun when the snoring started.
We have no idea how long Madi waited but she quickly sensed the wind was in her favor, tiptoed upstairs, and let herself out the unlocked front door. She made a beeline next-door where 10-year-old Hannah lives. Hannah often lets Madi play with her hamster.
Hannah’s family wasn’t home so Madi tried both doors; the back door was not locked. She found the hamster in its cage, liberated it, and was heading back to Grammy’s house for some fun when Papa woke up with a start, discovered she was gone and began dashing and calling. He found her outside our front door, clutching the little critter. Thinking she had a mouse in her pudgy fists, he almost threw it into an adjacent green space. But a second look made him think it was more domesticated – hence the “gerbil” classification.
“Madi! Where did you get this gerbil?”
“Louisiana,” she replied with a poker face worthy of Cool Hand Luke.
He asked a second time and got the same response. It was at that point he realized he was dealing with not only an experienced jail breaker but a seasoned perjurer since we live in Canada.
Disgruntled church members, power-hungry deacons, political positioning, tight budgets, needy parishioners – all this and more Pastor Papa handles with diplomacy and grace but a wise man knows his limits. He pried the hamster out of her sweaty grasp amid a flood of weeping, boxed the pet and marched Madi over to Auntie’s house. He knew he was in way over his head.