I have been taking a lot of deep breaths lately and asking my children to take them with me. "Slow down," I say. "I understand," I say. I say these things in what I hope is a loving voice. I say them even when I want to throw my hands in the air and scream.
My clumsy repair of Squeaker's tail was not the first thing to go wrong in Sadie's day and I tried to remember that. First of all, Squeaker had lost his tail. More to the point, he'd had it yanked off by one of the Star Wars loving, gun-finger pointing, girl-teasing boys in Sadie's class. The biggest problem, though and one that recurs with alarming frequency, is that Sadie wants a pet. She wants a real live pet. She wants any kind of pet. Yesterday it was a white mouse with red eyes. Before that it was a hamster that would live in a pink, sparkly castle and before that a rabbit and before that a dog and a pony and a turtle and on and on.
We do have a cat named Pokey. And a fish whose name is Tanya. But if it were left to Sadie we would have a menagerie.
Over the course of my childhood I had somewhere around sixty-eight pets. Your standard dogs and cats gave way to guinea pigs, ferrets, a pair of gerbils named Sam and Janet Evening, an iguana, a goat, an owl, chameleons... Two guinea pigs quickly became four and then eventually ten. The gerbils multiplied. Everything smelled of cedar shavings and urine.
There are days when I like the idea of a dog. There are days when I come dangerously close to bringing home that sparkly hamster castle. My mother was a volunteer at the zoo. My brother went to the State Fair and brought two baby goats home in his car. Perhaps the need for a menagerie is in my blood.
Last night, when Sadie seemed to be about to stop crying about Squeaker's tail, my son looked up from his homework.
"So, it looks like that pet situation is over," he said, rolling his eyes.
Sadie looked at him for a second through soggy lashes.
"I want a white mouse with red eyes," she wailed.
I will remain calm and be peaceful, but that "pet situation" is far from over.