by Elise Seyfried
This morning, it was unmistakable. As I came downstairs and walked through the living room, the rustling sound coming from the pile of wood beside the fireplace told me: it’s still here. Our latest mouse, I mean. Husband Steve made a valiant effort to catch it, but as Steve moved the wood, our tiny friend skedaddled across the room and under the sofa. We are having company tonight, and I can only hope little Mickey (or Minnie) makes him (or her) self scarce during dinner. But there’s no guarantee, alas. At any moment this evening we may be treated to a flash of fur zooming from here to there. If our guests are reading this, apologies in advance!
Not sure what we’re doing wrong. We’ve set multiple traps all over the house, filled with a gourmet extravaganza —cheese, peanut butter, chocolate. While once in a while the traps are sprung, often both goodies and mousie have disappeared by the time we check. Mind you, in the past we’ve only had these pesky visitors a few times a year, so it was no big deal — until recently, when the word apparently got out that our home was a perfect Mouse B&BLD (bed and breakfast, lunch and dinner). We called an exterminator, who found their hiding spots and sealed up places they’ve been using for entrance from outdoors. That seemed to do the trick, for a while. But we once again have been invaded by at least one mouse, and I fear it is not alone.
Our neighbors also have mouse challenges; I know it’s not just us. But I am a bit amused at the evolution of my attitude since childhood. Back in the day, one of my favorite books was “Stuart Little,” E.B. White’s classic about a dapper mouse in search of his bird friend, Margalo. Of course, the Disney mice were adorable if a little weird with their human clothes and voices. I never had a pet mouse but knew kids who did, and I thought they were precious. Now, as a New York City girl I well knew the difference between mouse and rat. The latter always terrified me when I’d spy the occasional one in an alley or by a garbage can — and for good reason: city rats are large, filthy disease carriers. But at some point, I transferred my terror to the harmless, miniscule field mouse, and I became the cliché: leaping onto a chair when I’d see one.
Truth be told, I harbor an intense dislike of squirrels as well. I know, I know — but what are they, after all, but rats with fluffy tails? Years ago, our attic was invaded by a squirrel. She (he?) greeted me one day as I climbed the attic stairs with a bag of my winter clothes. That was bad enough, but she had a mouthful of my kids’ school papers and drawings. Seems she was trying to build a nest out of Evan’s third grade book reports, and from the looks of things she was making progress. I fled down the steps in horror, but soon resolved to deliver Suzy Squirrel her eviction notice in the form of a Have-a-Heart trap.
Later, after Steve deposited Suzy in Fort Washington State Park, I read that squirrels have been known to find a place they’ve been before, up to five miles away. It dawned on me: the park is only THREE miles from our house! Ever since, we’ve been on the lookout for our uninvited guest. So far so good, though there is a strangely familiar looking rodent I’ve locked eyes with a few times on my morning walk. It’s silly to believe Suzy has found us again; isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Getting back to the little furball in the living room this morning, I know things could be much worse: giant roaches, scorpions, carpenter ants. We humans sometimes have to share our living spaces with a wide variety of unwelcome pests, and if I had to choose a plague on my house, I guess I’d prefer mice to other yucky alternatives. So tonight, I will read my grandson Aiden “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” before he goes to bed and remind myself that all God’s critters, indeed, even our resident varmint, have a place in the choir.
When she is not befriending mice, Elise Seyfried is Director of Spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and coauthor (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. She is the author of a self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” a collection of essays. It can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com.