Monday, December 31, 2007

The parent trap

Introducing my esteemed mother who is visiting from England (left).

You may be wondering what she is doing cowering under a blanket with her feet up on a chair. No, this is not how the English traditionally celebrate Christmas. Allow me to explain.

Having found evidence of seasonal rodent visitors during the holiday, we decided to lay a trap. Let me tell you, this was not an easy decision for a family of vegetarians to come to, and in our defence, we did examine the humane contraptions offered by our local DIY store before discarding them on the grounds they would involve actual human-to-rodent contact.

Our first serious attempt to catch and kill our unwanted visitor (the English not being renowned for their hospitality, after all) was made using a trap invented for those--like mum, like me--who wish to carry out extermination without ever having to see evidence of the crime (a bit like Congress when it authorizes wars). The natty little black box we bought had an indicator light which promised to let us know when a creature was caught, killed, and hidden away inside its black plastic shroud. The only problem was that after several days, it had caught, killed, and hidden away precisely nothing.

Venturing out once again, my intrepid mother and I allowed the Home Depot guy to talk us into a traditional wooden trap on which we were to smear peanut butter. Following the instructions almost to the letter (ie getting the neighbor's boy to do all the smearing and setting), we awaited the sound of snapping and squealing with trepidation.

Of course, what the instructions don't tell you is that these traps do not always kill their victims outright. Sometimes, they simply trap the unwary and wound them badly, allowing them to scrabble about for hours with wood and metal hinges attached. This was the situation which led to my mother's pose (above left). You might note that the camera angle is above and slightly to the right. Yes indeed, I was the one standing on the table while taking the picture.

My oldest daughter declared us "a bunch of bloody cowards." In vain did I try to explain that a "bunch" could not truly be said to represent only two people and that my mother and I were therefore no more nor less than a couple of cowards.

Off went Joy to do battle, her sister Lizzy aiding and abetting in the scooping activity that followed. Later, I explained to my daughters how proud I was that I was the kind of mother that raised brave daughters. "So what exactly," scoffed Joy at her grandmother, "did you raise?" I quickly came to my esteemed parent's rescue. "Gran," I informed Joy, importantly, "was the kind of mother who raised daughters that would bear brave children!" What can I say--it's a generational thing.

Barack in the House

For my sins, I was substituting in the Dallas Independent School District recently. My two secret weapons were Mary Poppins and the future. Who knew that some students would give me their respect just because I sound like the legendary English nanny? With most, however, I had to work hard just to keep some semblance of order in the classroom. I told one young boy I needed better behavior from him because I wanted to hear he was working in the White House some day. When that happened, I told him, I wouldn't want to have to tell the papers he had once been naughty with a tube of glue. He just about broke my heart with his reply.

"But Miz Hill," he told me, as though explaining something incredibly simple to someone particularly stupid and unobservant, "I can't work in the White House. I ain't white."

I'm not voting for Barack Obama because he's black. I'm voting for him because I think it will make a refreshing change to have a man of integrity leading this country. Nontheless, I have to tell you this: it helps that the color of his skin might make a Dallas second grader think twice about the possibilities for his own future. It helps a lot.

Barack Obama: because we're all worth it.