Mary Beth Writes

This was my weekly newspaper column from October 13, 1995. Maybe you would like to laugh at something simple and also, isn't it astounding that not all that long ago, we drove around in cars with children and without phones?  We were so brave.

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One thing I have noticed about ordinary life is that it is often more thrilling than you’d think. A few nights ago, as I was driving along, my eight-year-old son suddenly shrieked, “There’s a mouse in the car, Mom!”

 We were coming home from hockey practice in Kenosha. He had just completed an hour of non-stop skating and he was more than hungry -- he was a force of nature. I had driven through a fast food emporium and bought him enough saturated fats to fell a horse. He chomped his way through the aromatic mega-hamburger for the next ten miles.

We were waiting for the light to change at the intersection of highways 20 and 31 when my son first screeched, grabbed his leg, and yelled, “Something touched me!”

I kindly assured him this wasn’t possible. “Maybe some wind made your napkin touch you in a funny way but I can’t pull over right here. Okay?”

He’s a brave guy. He also tends to believe me, a characteristic that I find adorable in him, no matter how ill-advised. I kept driving while he kept muttering to himself, “Only the wind, only the wind...”

In the universal manner of parents, I was deceptively calm as I silently pondered the likelihood of his claim.  A mouse in the car?  Was this possible?  It’s something that I have never in all my years dreamed of worrying about - and that in itself made the situation unique.  I am a creative and experienced worrier. But car mice?  Never.

I was thinking about the bag of apples we have stored in the garage. I thought about the mouse I saw out there once. Could it climb the sides of an Eagle Talon and fall in? Why would it want to do that? The apples aren’t in the car. Then again, how would a mouse know that until he checked for sure? The car often smells like fast food, which I can easily imagine is a rodent inspiring aroma.

I was thinking these disquieting thoughts as we turned onto Old Green Bay Road. I pointed out the lovely lights of the airport.

Son announced again, urgently. “Something really touched me!”

This time, my imagination enlivened by the past few moments of reflection ... I believed him.

If you happened to drive by the airport Tuesday evening and saw a car pulled over and a woman standing to the side with her arm around a boy who was animatedly hopping up and down - that was us.

Son pleaded. “Can’t we call Daddy?”

No. Daddy was in Dallas. With the car phone. 

I  told Son it was probably a moth. Son pleaded with me to find someone to drive us home. I thought about it.  This is a hospitable town. But even so, I thought it would be pushing it to walk up to a stranger’s house after dark to ask them to drive us around since there might be a mouse in our automobile.  

Son and I gingerly climbed back in the car. He sat on his haunches in the back seat. I drove away. I heard rustling on the floor. I told myself it was only the wind. 

The next morning, I casually sauntered out to the car. I figured the moth would be ready to leave now.

A little piece of rodent “end product” rested on a seat. Yuck.    

Technically, it wasn’t a mouse.  It was a vole and when it climbed on a seat to look at me, I also hopped up and down with great animation.

The neighbors are having their house painted by two dashing young men whom I now know are wonderfully brave and good-natured. They came right over. When they couldn’t get the vole to reappear, we set out some food. Apparently, voles like homemade cookies. A few minutes later, one of the painters halved the foolish and unfortunate creature. It now resides deep in our compost pile.

I think the moral of the story is this. There are many important issues to think about but for immediacy of attention, a rodent in your car will win, scrabbling paws down, every time.

 

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