Monday, June 23, 2008


Three years ago Amelia received a guinea pig as a birthday present. Initially she doted on the little white hairball with the love and attention of a new mother. The guinea pig already had a name from its previous owner and Amelia, completely unperturbed by the denial of this most rewarding of maternal duties, reasoned that we should keep the same name lest the pig be confused. She wrapped her in a blanket and cuddled with her daily, feeding her fresh carrots and celery. On summer evenings Amelia put the pig in a blue and pink checkered doll stroller and took her on walks around the neighborhood. She bathed her and groomed her long white hair. (Just an FYI, if you are in the market for a small rodent, I recommend one with short fur. I won't get graphic with my explanation, just trust me).

Predictably, the novelty of the pig wore off. These days the poor creature sits in a cage day in and day out. Thankfully she can squeak when she needs food or water because Amelia wouldn't notice her death until long after rigor mortis had set in. Actually, I am being a little unfair, Amelia has reformed her wicked ways after much browbeating and feeds Princess every morning. Nonetheless, Princess gets little more than food and I think she has a sorry existence.

Today Amelia was cleaning Princess' cage and I suggested that she put her outside so she could nibble on the grass. I made sure that Zara, our puppy (long story short: Do NOT get a second dog while on chemotherapy for a life threatening illness. On this one particular issue, your husband is right. Again, trust me. If you learn nothing else but this and not buying a long haired rodent, your time on my blog will be well worth it unless, of course, you already knew these things.) was securely in the house and went outside to sit with the pig. When I arrived next to her, she immediately ceased nibbling and looked in my direction. Three years in my house and she still hasn't the foggiest notion who I am. When she decided that I was not going to harm her, she returned to her feast.

I sat down next to her, "So, you're out of your cage too." This is what my life has become: I now empathize with rodents. For a short while I marveled at her ability to masticate; guinea pigs must hold the record for the most chews per minute. At the rate she was going I thought she might be capable of mowing the lawn if we just let her out often enough. I looked at her little head, "What a small brain," I thought. It must be nice to only have enough cerebral capacity to deal with eating, reproduction, and self-preservation. There I sat with my big mammalian brain, constantly churning all the possible choices and outcomes over and over. And with that same brain we have developed so many blessed curses: the gift and pain of memory, the benefits and costs of foresight, and the pleasure and pain of love.

So who was better off, Princess or me? As the cliche goes, "Ignorance is bliss" but it must be very boring. I'll keep my big mammalian brain despite its flaws.

As I was pondering and Princess was nibbling, Zara came out the back door and rushed over to the tasty little morsel by my side. Princess let out a loud sqeak and jumped to nowhere in particular. "No, Zara," I warned, "Be gentle." I scooped Princess into my lap where she continued to squeak. Soon Zara put her snout against Princess' nose and Princess stopped squeaking, "Is that really the only defenses you've got?" I thought. "I am definitely better of with the big brain." But maybe not, maybe I'm just squeaking in the face of the inevitable too and hoping that someone will finally rescue me. Perhaps Princess and I are not so different. But I bet her heart doesn't ache like mine.


Marie Coppola said...

nice. I laughed out loud about the lessons!

Molly Lane said...

Michelle was an awesome writer. Reading her blog now that I've discovered her is the same as reading a great book that I cannot put down. She lived life more fully in her too short years on earth than I have come close to in 61 years so far. I hope you and your children are doing okay. I can only imagine how much your Michelle is missed. Please take comfort in knowing you will be reunited with her again.