I consider myself a savvy suburban woman when I walk on the wooded trails behind my house.
I’ve taken self-defense classes and know about looking people in the eyes, holding my head high, and not listening to my ipod when I’m alone.
I know about people being trampled by deer, and women being assaulted.
So my danger antenna is up, in a healthy sort of cautionary way, not a paranoid pansy way.
Until I see a mouse.
Then I freeze.
My courage is sapped.
Suddenly, I am my mother, a self-described “blithering idiot” when it comes to mice.
Cheerfully walking along, appreciating the cooler weather on the shaded path, I watch for squirrels that hop from limb to limb and shimmy up trees. They don’t bother me, but a mouse? They drive me crazy.
My mouse fear is my mother’s fault.
She taught me the only way to react to a mouse is to jump on the kitchen table and shout obscenities.
With no kitchen table in sight, I picked up my pace and sped past the little varmint as fast as I could, hoping it wouldn’t follow me. Then all I could think about for the rest of the walk was that mouse.
Forget about the fall leaves, the sunshine after days of rain and cloudy skies.
I was afraid the frisky thing would dart out in front of me any minute.
And then I remembered Mom saying, “Where there’s one, there’s a whole family waiting to come out.”
Thank you for that Mother.
I imagined a whole nest of them scurrying around in the woods waiting for me to approach so they could run madly around me and send me into a frenzy that would land me in St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital.
Thanks again, Mom.
She’s the one who said she had a room reserved at the state mental because she knew she’d need it someday.
My mom is a brave woman except when it comes to mice. Well, and driving on the freeways… and driving at night … and flying… and using her cell phone… and…
Okay, never mind about her being brave. I’ll say she has gumption, and courage and no one would dare take advantage of her.
But when a mouse pops its miserable little head in front of her with its wiry, snappy tale, she snaps and unravels right before your eyes.
She screams, grabs a broom, and jumps on the kitchen table to scream.
“You dirty rotten little beast! I can’t stand you. Get out of my house.”
(I won’t write the other names she calls them because I don’t want WordPress to yank my blog…)
One day, she opened a kitchen drawer and saw a mouse scampering among her clean dish towels.
She jumped on the table, screamed and swore, and reached for the telephone to call my Dad to come home from work and save her. He wasn’t there, and she couldn’t find my brothers, so she called my brother’s friend to come and save her. He is still her favorite friend of all my brother’s friends.
My own history with mice is not much better.
Many years ago, I left my apartment building to go to work, and walked out to my car in the parking lot.
I put the key in the door to unlock it and saw a mouse run across the dashboard, to the seat, and then disappear.
As I’d been taught, I screamed.
I thought somebody was playing an evil trick on me so I yelled at the bushes and said, “If you’re in there playing a trick on me It’s not funny. Come out and get the mouse out of my car now!”
Yes, I felt foolish.
I still feel foolish just admitting it.
Of course no one emerged from the bushes.
I asked one of the custodians from the building to help me.
Guess what he said?
“I’m afraid of mice! Let me see if I can get someone else to help us.”
A team of custodians followed me to my car. They fumigated it with a poison.
I, of course, took the metro for several days.
Finally, after the memory faded and the toxic smell evaporated, I drove to work again.
Months later, I was driving a friend home from a party and felt a hard thump on my gas pedal foot.
I looked down and discovered a dead, calcified mouse sitting on my foot.
I stopped the car in the middle of the road (thank goodness it was late and there were no other cars around!), and I jumped out screaming.
My friend removed the mouse from the car and all I could think for weeks was that I needed to sell the car.
I could not drive a mouse-infested car even if the mouse was dead.
I managed to keep the car, but obviously never lost my fear of mice.
I have my not-so-brave mother to blame for all of this ridiculousness.
Oh, and one detail I may have omitted about the mouse I saw on the trail that I worried might bring it’s family and dance around me and send me into a frenzy…
It was dead.