I opened the closet door in the kitchen and saw little black droppings on the floor. When I looked closer, knowing what it was, not wanting to admit it, I noticed a bag of corn chips was chewed open at the bottom.
No question. A mouse had moved in.
I called the exterminator who comes quarterly and panicked into the phone. “You have to come this morning!!” I exclaimed.
The woman on the other end of the line was unfazed. She likely gets crazy clients calling all the time once they’ve noticed evidence of more residents in their home than previously thought.
The guy came and was calm and chuckling. He pointed out several holes in the exterior that needed caulking up. He pointed out the overgrown weeds on the south side of my house, a summer jungle perfect for hiding critters underneath the leaves. He came inside and placed four boxes with traps inside them in my kitchen closet.
“Don’t clean it out,” he said. “It looks like you have one mouse. He urinated there so he’ll come back. Your husband can throw away the box when a dead mouse is in it.”
And then he proceeded to place all the unsecured food in garbage bags for me to cart out to the curb. Metal cans of coffee could remain.
I had to spend the day working at home, as I always do, knowing there was a critter somewhere near me but not knowing where. He could see me, but I couldn’t see him. I hated making lunch that day. I haven’t opened the kitchen closet since.
That night, my husband reassuringly mopped the kitchen floor, pulled out the stove to clean around and behind it (ohmigod was there a lot of food that had fallen between the cracks, so many unseen things creating situations we just are not aware of), swept and mopped twice, once with hot water and soap, once with Murphy’s oil soap, underneath the cabinets.
“It was gross,” he said, and we clean the house weekly. Yes, we step it up and become emphatic when we are aware of the threat of invasion. On a regular week, cursory cleaning will suffice, I guess.
He went through the pantry drawers to see if the rodent had visited there, but thankfully he hadn’t. Still, we threw out a lot. Boxes of cereal, bags of rice and chips, plastic bags of already opened cookies, a giant bag of flour I got at Costco as a twofer.
I don’t know what upsets me more – the idea of a critter living beside me, the nerve of a wild creature intruding upon what I think of as a safe, impenetrable space, my home, or thinking I had such perfect planning, all the ingredients for a nice life, and then realizing I have to throw it all away and simplify, start over.
The thing is, it was kind of freeing to just toss everything. Wasteful, sure. But freeing.
I can see the floor of the closet now. I can think more carefully about what we really need, versus what we buy and never use.
This morning, my husband got up before me and went straight downstairs. Sure enough, there was a dead mouse in one of the traps. He took it promptly outside to the garbage.
I hope that’s all. I hope it’s over. I hope I can lay back on the couch and not worry if some little critter has nosed its way between the cushions to gather up the crumbs from when my kids sat there with snacks.
Listen, I know a mouse is no real foe for a human. That’s not what the fear is about.
I have been a single mother. I run a successful business all by myself. I navigate life alone when I have to and without fear or sadness.
But add a rodent to my life, and I flip out. It’s about thinking I have control over my life and realizing I really do not. I can think about it from a philosophical perspective and know that we truly are not in control, though we lull ourselves into thinking we are.
But that certainty is not always front and center in my consciousness. On any given day, I awaken, shower, choose the clothes I pull over my body, make coffee, drink water, swallow vitamins, and look at the schedule I’ve planned to see what lies ahead.
I think I have it all figured out, all organized. Everything is in order. I can do laundry when the dirty clothes pile up and put them away, carefully folded, when they’re clean. I can make the bed, and then pull the covers back to sink inside at night. I choose what happens from minute to minute.
Until I don’t.
The illusion is that we have any control at all. When we finally accept that we have absolutely no control, give over the tightly-held reins to some higher force, be it universe, God or fate, only then can we begin to walk on solid ground.