Tuesday, October 19, 2010

tales of a second-grade hamster

puffed up and rocking back and forth: that’s how chippy the class hamster spent most of his weekend with us. i kept thinking he was going to split in two and multiply any second, like a gremlin.

we have never had a hamster: we are dog people. but the look on our middle son’s face (“ace” for purposes of this blog) when he asked if we could care for him one weekend was so earnest, so full of hope, that i just couldn’t say no. i immediately thought, oh my gosh, what will we do with him? will the dog try to eat him? how much care will he require?

turns out all he wanted to do was climb up into his spaceship (the highest point of his cage, where he also seemed to do all of his bathroom reading) and look out, unless of course he heard us coming, at which point he would scramble back and forth and then quickly into one of the tubes where he would hang upside down and peek out at us from inside, as if the plastic accordion would protect him from whatever was inevitably coming.

there was one thing that seemed to make him happy: ace. anytime he came into the room and called “chippy” softly (and if you know ace you know this is quite a feat in itself, to call out softly to something), the hamster immediately responded by coming out of the tube and digging a little hole to settle into for some one-on-one time with his friend.

i found myself wanting to sneak into ace’s room for some chippy therapy when no one else was looking. i wanted to talk to him through the metal bars, where he sat like a tiny prisoner, scratching himself, and tell him that there are times i feel just like that: trapped in my own house. there are times when all i want to do is crawl under some sawdust and rock back and forth, puffed up and bloated. or i get in the wheel and run, spinning and spinning, going nowhere. or i pack it with my own version of wood chips, where it’s too heavy to even move.

what i don’t want to admit about this weekend experience is how happy it made ace. he was almost in tears by the time monday morning came and he had to return him to school. he couldn’t get to sleep sunday night because he was so anxious about having to take him back. it made me feel like maybe i am not providing something for him, or maybe it’s just that middle children really need their own something special to love on and talk to that’s just theirs.

please tell me it doesn’t have to be a hamster.


  1. it can be a gerbil. Just kidding. that post was heartrending. love how you identified with chippy. and the nom de blog, ace, who seems pretty darn ace!

  2. i love the picture of the hamster. seriously the colors in it are so great and supersaturated and with his face peering out it's adorable. it's such a great post and i love how you end it. the last two sentences are perfect, you're sort of like lorrie moore that way. sort of heartbreakingly open and funny at the same time