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.

Originally posted last year at Jane Started It. Sharing here just for because.

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