The scene in my house this afternoon was a perfect cross section of life.
It was equal parts horror, fear, bravery, anguish, astonishment, relief and humor sliced down the middle, frozen on a slide of parenthood. I stood in the hallway, screaming, sobbing and shaking as my 4-year-old looked on and my 6-year-old stood on the kitchen counter in the other corner of the house, crying and hollering his support. I had my eyes fixed on a small black square that was pinned underneath the rim of an overturned bucket. On top of the bucket there was a pumpkin, for weight. Inside the black plastic glue trap there was a mouse.
A mouse that, moments earlier, had darted across my bedroom floor toward my bed, where I was sitting. As I considered how to move to trap the mouse, I heard a scramble and then saw a tiny furry body launch itself off my bed — where I sleep — onto the floor and into my closet.
That's when the screaming started.
It's a visceral response I have to seeing a mouse in my bedroom, and I can't help it. I saw the mouse and opened my mouth, and the screaming just wouldn't stop. My boys, who saw the whole thing happen, ran into the kitchen and found safety on top of the counter. One son crouched on the counter; the other stood, with his little head reaching toward the ceiling, as though he were trying to get as far away from that mouse as he possibly could.
My 6-year-old called his dad at work, and he said, through his tears, "Dad, there's a mouse, and it jumped off of the bed and ran into the closet, and Mom is freaking out."
My husband was incredulous.
"Seriously?" he asked. "A mouse was on our bed?!"
I walked into the kitchen to talk to my husband on the phone, trying to come up with a plan to defeat this little invader that instantly took away all of my comfort and security. As I decided to head back to my closet to see if I could find the critter, I rounded the corner and saw a tiny furry body dart down my hallway and into the hallway closet.
The screaming started again.
I stood at the end of the hallway, frozen, thinking of ways I could catch the mouse with a bucket, when it peeped its head out from under the closet door and I shrieked again. The head shot back under the door, still in the closet.
I called to my boys and asked them to bring me some glue traps and heard my 6-year-old trying to convince the 4-year-old to walk down the hallway — where a mouse was hiding in the closet — to get the traps.
"You'll be the most brave boy I know," the 6-year-old said.
So the 4-year-old gathered up all of his gumption and brought me a few mousetraps. The 6-year-old found a few more, and I lined up six traps in front of the closet door.
The mouse stuck his head underneath the door on the other side of the closet, closest to me, and I caught my breath. I squatted a little, holding the bucket, trying to be poised to drop it as soon as the little creature ran.
Just then, the mouse ran out the other side of the closet, straight onto a glue trap. My husband was on the phone with me when it happened.
"The mouse is on the glue trap; what do I do?! What do I do?!" I screamed.
He told me to drop another glue board on top of the animal, "like a sandwich."
And as I did, I heard the little mouse squeaking and shrieking, even as I screamed and screamed and tried to will my body to move toward that little writhing shape that I just knew could break free and run toward my face if I got too close.
I tried to stop yelling, but when I clapped my hands over my mouth, the horror bubbled up inside and came out in tears and sobs. Slowly, I inched toward the glue trap and put my bucket on top of it, squishing the sandwich. I studied the situation for a minute and I decided I'd better put the big pumpkin on top of the bucket, just in case the mouse could somehow squeak through.
After that moment was over, I laughed at how ridiculously my body responded to that little mouse, but my son was still a little freaked out. I coaxed him down from the counter, and we called his dad — who had gotten off the phone in the height of my yelling — for comfort.
"Why did my sister get to go on a play date and I had to stay home and kill a mouse?" he said through his tears.
"It's OK," my husband told my son. "You have to help Mom take care of our house, you know? Some day you'll be a dad and it will be your job to take care of the mice in your house."
At that, my son didn't have anything more to say, he was so stunned at the idea of such responsibility. But at the same time, he stopped crying. He calmed down. He felt brave and proud. And I did, too.
Later that night he said, "I'll probably have nightmares about mice tonight."
"Me too, buddy," I said. "Me too."