Friday, November 20, 2009

Our hamster died this morning. Or rather, I found our dead hamster this morning. She hadn't moved from the little nest she'd made in the shavings last night. Hadn't moved from the spot where I'd last given her a gentle goodnight pat between the shoulder blades.

"She seems a little slow," I'd said to my husband.
"Are you poking her?" he said from the next room.
I removed my hand from the cage. "Not poking," I said.
"Let her sleep. She's sleeping."

It's been established that I'm a worrier. I worry. Sometimes for nothing. Sometimes I wake up to a dead hamster.

Her name was Sunshine.

My daughter sobbed when I told her and then she wanted to touch the little body. She wanted to stroke the soft, black fur and she wanted to have a funeral.

My husband went somewhat sheepishly to the garage and returned with a small box that he'd quickly emptied of deck screws.

My daughter drew a small picture -- herself: stick arms and curly hair, a big upside down "u" for a mouth and Sunshine like a small, prickly pickle next to her.

We dug a hole in the garden and my son said "This is just like a real funeral." When Sadie didn't want to put the first shovel full of dirt into the grave, Theo took the shovel and did it with a gentleness that belies his seven years. He put his arms around his sister and said he liked the way Sunshine's whiskers had wiggled.

Later, Sadie took her little dry erase board and asked me for each letter of the word, "Sunshine." She drew hearts above the word and beneath it, in a small rectangle, the little hamster. She showed me the picture and made a sad face. Not the sad face of this morning, but the practiced sad face of a dramatic child. Seconds later, she'd erased the whole thing.

The next drawing she made was of the new hamster, (for of course there is a new hamster) complete with her white spots. Above the new hamster, she draws a slightly smaller version of the old hamster.

"Both," she says.

She loves them both, her memory as easily wiped as her dry erase board.

The new hamster's name is Flowersheartsandstars. I love her less than the first hamster. I know from experience not to attach to so ephemeral a creature.

Small body, warm last night, stiff and cold this morning.