The Guilt-Trip Menagerie

Photo: Andrew Braithwaite (Creative Commons Flickr)

We had a cockatiel named Chipper. And a parakeet. Photo: Andrew Braithwaite (Creative Commons Flickr)

“I’m going to ask my mom for a pet tarantula.” This was from one of my students, said to no one in particular. His aim was to get a rise out of his classmates.

Ah, but I am wise to the ways of 7th grade boys–and their moms.

“Too late,” I quipped. “You’re not home schooled anymore. The guilt-trip menagerie is closed for business.” Yes, once the kids transition into school, there is no more conning Mom into mind-enriching “live science” projects.

What a dupe I was for boyhood curiosity! Our cat (and one litter of kittens) was not enough. Over the years we adopted birds–yes, the boys taught the cockatiel to say words–and fish and lizards. And garter snakes (caught by them), plus pet store crickets (epic-fail snake food) that somehow got loose in their bedroom and chirped until they died–months and months later. I should probably add that we were living in an apartment.

Photo: Fyn Kynd Photography (Creative Commons Flickr)

We ended up with not one but two garter snakes. Photo: Fyn Kynd Photography (Creative Commons Flickr)

One of the reasons I encourage students to write is the “time capsule” element. Those notebooks are a treasure in later years, filled with details everyone has forgotten. My oldest son transitioned into middle school in 1999, but the home school pets lived on.

I’ll let Michael take up the story in his own words:

I had a snake for about two years, and all of the time the cat would stare at the snake. She would sit on top of the snake cage and try to get in. Having a snake was fun! It was a little garter snake and I fed it live goldfish….The snake would then eat the live fish whole! My friends got a kick out of that.

Photo: Susanne Nilsson (Creative Commons Flickr)

A neighbor’s mom was tired of having  pet lizards. Guess where they came to live? Photo: Susanne Nilsson (Creative Commons Flickr)

Once the cat knocked the snake cage over, and the snake got loose! The cat got in big trouble and was put outside [on the balcony]. It gave my brothers a scare when they found out that it was loose, but we found it and put it in its cage. Another time we had some guests staying over, and the snake got loose in my room where they were supposed to sleep! We caught it again, and it stayed in its cage.

His observations about our cat are more prosaic:

My cat is funny. She is lazy and always wants her way. Every morning she wakes me up so that I will take my shower. Then, after my shower she jumps into the wet bathtub and washes her feet, as she drinks sthe water! On the days that I sleep in, she meows and meows so that she can drink and wash. I just ignore her and sleep in some more. Last night at about 9:00 Flower, my cat, was sitting in the bathtub waiting for me to take a shower in the morning.

One day Michael will write fiction. He is doomed by his DNA, I tell him. He just rolls his eyes at me, but I  know better.


22 thoughts on “The Guilt-Trip Menagerie

        1. Laura Hile

          Hamsters, never had one of those. Where is the appeal? They stay in the cage and make a mess. They can’t curl up on my lap and purr, and they don’t chase off mice and roaches. (Seriously, we lived in a roach-infested neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. My neighbor’s yard was crawling with them, but not ours. Good kitty. She was relentless in hunting bugs.)

          Plus, my life resembles a hamster wheel. I don’t need to see a little rodent spinning round and round…

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Laura Hile

              Heartfelt promises, yes, I’ve received plenty of those. We would all like to have a cat. The men around here would manage the petting part–when they’re home, which isn’t much. I would do the cleaning up part.

              I even went looking at cat adoption sites for a geriatric cat. You know, a nice floppy, purry, cuddly one. “Mom, not someone else’s cat,” protested Nathan. “We want kittens. Two of them.”

              I love kittens, but when no one is home? Uh-huh. We remain as we are, cat-less.

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Susan Kaye

              Yeah, about NOT staying in the cage. My younger brother had one and when it flew the coop it decided my closet was a perfect hide-out. And maternity ward. UGH!

              Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura Hile

      Will has always had a way with words, along with razor-sharp incisiveness and subtle snark. He’ll write, the residual income–and the sheer challenge of creating a book–will tempt him. They’re not old enough, these guys. Not yet.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Laura Hile

    And a BUNNY ! I forgot about Barnaby, the bunny. He went to live with my mom in her large, lush backyard, but the call of the wild was strong. Eventually he Born Freed himself and disappeared into the chaparral-covered hills.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. JBHendricks

    Hmmm… I am going to have to remember this if I ever homeschool my children. I really enjoyed this Laura! Kinda neat how you included your son’s writing. Makes me think about the old stories from elementary my mother pulled out of her craft room today.
    Love the title by the way, no better way to describe some people’s homes than as a menagerie.


  3. Crystal Thieringer

    I’m not sure I would have survived as a mom, never mind a mom of boys! I barely survived brothers–one of whom gave my mother a hamster (named Hammy) for her birthday, with those famous words, “I’ll take care of him.” That never happened, to my recall, especially since I’m the one with the scar on my thumb from rescuing said hamster from the couch. Or maybe I was rescuing myself from said hamster. Great post. Your children are so fortunate to have you for their mom, Laura. It sounds as though life is rich and full in your house!


  4. Debbie Simorte

    I never home schooled and still had the guilt trip menagerie. Who in their right mind gets talked into keeping rats? And goldfish from the carnival? And a puppy because a friend’s parents were irresponsible about spaying? I did draw the line at snakes. Much enjoed this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. childofaslan

    And every pet is a learning opportunity…for all parties involved. We had so many pets growing up; nothing exotic–dogs, cats, birds, mice–but I wouldn’t give up any of it, and, strangely enough, I don’t think my mother would, either. 🙂



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