We had been planning to get chickens. It wasn’t my idea. But I’d been outvoted 3-1, and I had used up my veto on getting hamsters. So we were getting chickens instead.
I wasn’t jazzed about the chickens either. But at least they would live outside. So we made a place for them. We got a heat lamp, food, a coop. I even read a book. We were going away for Spring Break, so we decided to wait until we got back to get them. Just so happened that Spring Break coincided with the week running up to Easter this year. So Saturday, the day between death and resurrection, we drove over to Tractor Supply to pick up out future egg layers.
I videoed the moment, interviewing the kids about their official entrée into farm life. We huddled up, did the Erickson Team cheer and headed inside.
No chickens!?@#$%! I told the kids not to worry. I pulled up the second closest Tractor Supply on my phone. 30 minutes later we went inside. No chickens. More !?!@#$%#@! I went online. Sold out. All up and down the east coast. Sold Out.
The kids were crying. Who knew that chicks were THIS popular? Thanks a lot Easter. I slumped down on a back of pine chips. Lia was buying supplies for the chickens we didn’t have.
We walked to the car. Tears were still running down the kids’ faces. “Well, have you tried Florida, Daddy?” asked Anna Rose.
“No. I have not tried Florida,” I said.
“Try Florida, Daddy,” said David.
“Guys.” I stopped before I said something I would later regret – then I said something I later regretted. “Hop in the car. We’re getting hamsters.”
30 minutes later we pulled up to Pet Supermarket. 20 minutes later we came out with Gumball and Flufferballs. Yes, Flufferballs. David named him.
We also came out with food, chew toys, two hamster balls, and cages. I didn’t ask how much it cost. I didn’t want to know.
We also didn’t know that the slots on the cages were too wide. Hamsters were on the loose night one. We found Gumball underneath Anna Rose’s bed. Flufferballs we found in our dog’s mouth. Fortunately, he had not been chewed very much. Henceforth, Flufferballs has had no interest in escaping. Unfortunately, Gumball did. He was gone night three.
Lia bought a replacement. A girl. I still have no idea what she was thinking.
Anna Rose named her Squeakers. We found Gumball an hour later. We now had three hamsters.
So much for veto power.
(We now also have six chickens – David, Richard, Freckles, Drumstick, Bojangles, and the Mighty Mighty Egg Layer, Mel for short)
Squeakers soon became Anna Rose’s favorite. She had this sweet demeanor. She didn’t mind being carried. She had a high threshold for kids and their excited little tuggy, squeezy, enthusiastic fingers. She even went on vacation with us, surviving our two children’s and three others’ constant “devotion.”
It was really quite impressive.
Well, two days later we had yet another guest over, and the cage didn’t quite get closed right, and Squeakers decided to go on vacation. More like a staycation. As far as we could tell she hadn’t left our house. We found a few droppings here and there. But no Squeakers. We looked everywhere. It was hopeless.
One night, during pillow talk (Anna Rose and I have pillow talk a few times a week), Anna Rose started to cry. God, to her, was against her. “First, Thumper” (Quickly about Thumper. Up in the mountains, Anna Rose rescued a baby bunny from our dogs (our dogs are not as vicious as they are sounding in this story), but sadly Thumper didn’t pull through. It was the first death Anna Rose had ever watched happen. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know how hard Anna Rose took it. I didn’t know she had prayed for God to raise Thumper from the dead. She trusted and believed so deeply that she actually forced us to keep Thumper two days before burying. Shehad placed all her hope in God answering her prayers. God didn’t). “Now, Squeakers,” she cried. “God must hate me. He doesn’t care. I don’t even know if he’s real.”
“Of course he’s real, Anna Rose.” But I wasn’t sure how to prove it in a way that eight year old Anna Rose would accept it.
“Then, why does he not answer my prayers?”
“Well, he doesn’t have to. He’s God.”
“Well, if he loved me, he would answer.”
I really didn’t know what to say.
“Do you want me to pray we find Squeakers?” I asked.
“I don’t care. Prayer doesn’t work,” said Anna Rose.
“Well, I’m going to pray anyway,” I said.
That night, I spent two hours looking for that stinking hamster.
Three days went by.
A friend came to visit for a few days. The first morning, she came upstairs and asked us if we had a mouse problem.
No we said, but we did have a hamster one.
I saw her that night.
I had gotten home late from a meeting. I was dead tired, but I heard water running in the basement. So I went downstairs, thinking our guest bathroom toilet needed jiggling. Turns out, our friend was in the shower.
I turned around to go back upstairs when there our other friend was. Squeakers. I leapt at her.
The thing had gone wild. In captivity she had loved her wheel. And she was using all those miles she logged to her benefit. Man, was she fast. I chased her, cornered her. She escaped. I cornered her again. I was not letting her out of my sight. My daughter’s faith was on the line.
She escaped and went under the door into the bathroom where our friend was showering. Darn it!
I waited till the water stopped and warned her that I was outside and that Squeakers was inside. She squealed before I finished my sentence. “Catch it!” I said.
To her credit, she tried. But clever old Squeakers had found a tiny crack in the bottom of our cabinet, you know, the few inches between the bottom of the cabinet and the floor, the part that is impossible to get to. That’s where Squeakers was.
I put her cage by the crack and filled her food tray, hoping she’d gorge herself and fall asleep in the fluff.
Next morning, all her food was gone. So was Squeakers.
Anna Rose was a mess.
I tried cheering her up. “Well, at least we know she is ok.”
“She won’t be forever.”
“Well, God at least answered our prayer. We found Squeakers.”
Anna Rose frowned, “If God is really God then he would have understood what we meant.”
My heart broke for her. She was right. If God was God then he would understand. I couldn’t think of anything else to say except to tell her to go to bed. I’d stay downstairs that night and hope for another Squeakers sighting.
Anna Rose vanished upstairs.
I prayed. “Come on Jesus. I need a miracle. My daughter’s faith is on the line here.”
Twenty-five minutes later, at 8:39pm, Squeaker’s wheel squeaked. She always did love that wheel. I crept in the bathroom. Squeakers saw me. She dashed to the open door. She wasn’t fast enough. I slammed it shut. Squeakers was inside, so skinny she could once again slip through the bars. We’d find her a more suitable home in a minute.
First things were first. I woke up Anna Rose and put the cage on her bed. Anna Rose opened the cage and took Squeakers in her hands. I let her. I was a little nervous. But I let her.
We carried the cage and Squeakers to the bathroom where we had been keeping her before her staycation. We made a new home for Squeakers in a huge plastic bin.
We put Squeakers to bed.
Anna Rose looked at me through the mirror. “You were right, Dad. God is real,” she said half to me, half to herself.
It was a great moment.
Anna Rose went right to bed, a smile on her lips. I turned out the light and shut the door quietly behind me and whispered to the heavens, “Thank you.”