No one has ever accused me of running a tight ship and my failings in that particular realm were never more evident than when I had kids and animals around the house.
The Big Kat used to go around saying that if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. I, in turn, went around saying that he was a jackass, but I now see that I am my own most troublesome problem in many arenas, especially in the arena of loose shippedness.
Night time was the worst as it is well documented that I love my sleep. Many interesting things happened around my house during those eight or nine hours that I was blithely slumbering away. Alarm systems were dismantled from the inside out, cars were pushed out of the garage and down the driveway so I wouldn’t hear them start up, people came and went, and complete teenage dramas were played out as I snoozed in my bed. And it wasn’t because I was such a heavy sleeper, it’s because my kids were just that good.
Years ago, in one of my very few cleaning frenzies ever, I decided to take on Melissa’s room. Next to her bed, she had one of those cardboard tables covered with a cloth that were all the rage of cheapskates in the eighties. I picked up the table to vacuum under it and found a coil of yellow rope and a pair of rubber gloves tucked inside. After severe interrogation, Melissa finally owned up to climbing out of her second-floor window using the rope to rappel down and the gloves to protect her sweet hands. She then told me that she’d definitely learned her lesson as the leaving had been a snap, but the return trip had been pretty tough. I couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t just taken the batteries out of the alarm system like she usually did.
Although I was relatively laissez faire in parenting my children, my approach with pets veered toward the criminally insane. First of all, I could never pass up the opportunity to take in an animal. During the time my kids were living at home, we had no fewer than four dogs, one bird, three or four hamsters, one rabbit, a myriad of fish, and way too many cats to count. I did draw the line at pythons and any kind of lizard and, for that, I'm quite proud.
It was the actually caring for the animals that caused me to lose my way.
However, let me go on record as stating that I never neglected any animal to the point of perishment (except for maybe the rabbit, but that was never proved), and I never abandoned an animal to the elements (except for that one cat with the truly nasty personality who took up with us). For that cat, I paid Billy and his friend, T.J., (in advance, of course) to take the cat somewhere and drop it off. The cat came back a couple of hours before Billy and T.J. returned with my car. Yeah, I know that wasn’t the right thing to do and that I could be arrested for it these days, but you know what they say about desperate times.
Then there were the few years when we had Sugar, our black pseudo-Lab; Sheba, a cat I’d inherited when her real parents moved back to New Zealand; and Chloe, the cat we’d had forever. Sheba’s real parents, in their cute New Zealander accents, had told me that she was quite the “huntress.” How quaint, I thought.
During that time, I'd taken to leaving a window open in my dining room so the critters could go in and out at their leisure to take care of their business. Yes, that was probably dangerous and no, it didn't do much for my reputation as a stellar hostess. At that point, I'd apparently forgotten Sheba's reputation as a huntress.
There was one particular night when Sheba must have found a rabbit nursery in my back yard. On that night, she brought not one, but two, screaming rabbit babies (one after the other) into my bedroom so that I could share in her pride and maybe even grab a tasty tidbit of tiny cottontail. I could have probably gotten the rabbit babies away from Sheba, but before I could hoist myself out of bed and chase her down, Sugar got into the act, stealing the screaming babies from Sheba and then running through the house with each of them, shaking them until they finally succumbed to little rabbit baby heart attacks.
It got to the point that spring that animal carcasses no longer gave us any pause at all. One Sunday, I came home after being out of town for the weekend. I'd paid Molly (in advance, of course) to clean up while I was gone, and when I arrived, I noted with satisfaction that the house looked pretty good and the kitchen looked fantastic. The dishes had been washed and put away, the sink and stove were clean, and the floor had been mopped - except for the one spot under the kitchen table where a half-eaten dead squirrel lay in repose.
But I never thought about closing the window, even when I found the live snake trying to get out of my front door by wedging itself into the hinged groove. Or maybe it was just attempting to hide itself from that dynamic duo, Sheba and Sugar. Either way, life went on swimmingly in our listing cruise liner until, one day without any warning, the kids and the animals were all gone.
Now I live alone, and, for some reason, it seems kind of quiet around here.