A test of mice and ice, woman against nature

     The sun sets over an unbroken field of snow. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    The sun sets over an unbroken field of snow. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    Today, snow fell upon my suburban Philly home. By two o’clock, it stopped, and I came to the realization that I was going to have to finally, after all these years, shovel the driveway — no maid, no husband, no children.

    At 91, Bubby, the “bad ass” grandma of the family, confirms to be true the story that she once drowned a mouse with her bare hands.

    At the time, she could have called upon a live-in maid, a husband, and any one of five children to hear her scream and to assist her in the prompt removal of the offender. But no scream ensued, and no request for assistance was made.

    She grabbed a bucket and a broom. She cornered the critter and swept it into the bucket. Continuing on her mission, she filled the bucket at the kitchen sink, grabbed the mouse with her bare hands, and held it under the water until she was sure it had drowned. She then drained the bucket, placed the mouse in the trash, and called it a day.

    That’s my mother-in-law: tough, independent, and full of grit.

    And then there’s me. I grew up mostly in Texas and partly in The Cayman Islands. To me, if the temperature doesn’t start with the number seven, eight, or nine, it’s too damn cold. Ok — if it starts with a six and I’m in direct sun with a sweater on, that’s acceptable.

    Where I hail from we got a once-a-year ice storm. You stayed home, toasted marshmallows by the crackling fire, made hot chocolate, and by the next day you got in your muddy car and went back to work. You enjoyed your one winter day per year, and life went on.

    Also being from Texas, I’ve seen roaches the size of small dinosaurs and tarantulas hanging on the edge of a toll taker’s change basket enough times that it doesn’t shock me. And if you haven’t enjoyed a beach sunset in the Caymans while being eaten alive by mosquitoes, then you are lying and you’ve never really been there. So I know to stay home in bad weather, and not to scream at the sight of creepy-crawly things.

    Snow and more snow

    Today, snow fell upon my suburban Philly home. I stayed indoors while the snow proceeded with its dumpage. By two o’clock, it stopped, and I came to the realization that I was going to have to finally, after all these years, shovel the driveway — no maid, no husband, no children. So I got my rarely worn snow gloves and snow boots from our spare room.

    The other thing we keep in the spare room is my husband’s cockatoo. I say he’s my husband’s bird because I claim no ownership of him whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I’ve called my husband at least once a month for the past 28 years he’s owned the thing to tell him that I am putting a bird in the oven for dinner. It is the bird’s good fortune that the grocery stores give us a free turkey every year for Thanksgiving.

    Elliot gets a fresh bowl of seeds and nuts daily. One weekend, my daughter came to visit, in dire need of mommy love and rest. After clearing the room of Elliot’s dander and dust, I put my daughter in the spare room to sleep. Elliot, lucky me, slept in our room with us. By morning, my daughter was distraught. She hadn’t slept a wink. Something was scratching around her room all night and kept her up. Yep, we had a mouse in the house.

    My first reaction was to call my husband, but he doesn’t have his mother’s grit. Neither do I. I didn’t make a beeline for the bucket and the broom, but I did set traps — and the varmint was caught and tossed in a day.

    Back to the spare room I went to dust and vacuum out seeds and nuts and mouse droppings. Incident over. Until today, when it snowed.

    A test of grit

    I texted my husband to tell him that the shoveling was about to commence. As I was going into the spare room to get my supplies, I heard a knock at my door. It was the young man who raked my leaves last month offering to shovel. I forced myself to say no.

    I again texted my husband to tell him of the boy’s offer, and that I declined. He texted back telling me I was crazy and to hunt the kid down and pay him 20 bucks. But I needed this. I needed to have some future vindication in my back pocket for the next time he complained about mowing the lawn. I was determined to face the snow and the wind and the temperature that started with some number way smaller than six.

    I grabbed the gloves and the boots. One foot went into one boot. The other foot went into the other. No, the other foot tried to go into the other. What? What’s going on? The other boot was filled with seeds, nuts, and a very appealing smattering of mouse droppings. It seems I had cleaned all around and under, but not inside.

    I didn’t scream. I didn’t call for backup. I emptied the boot, placed it on my foot, and went outside to shovel snow all by myself for the very first time in my life. I texted my husband once again.

    “Good thing ur mother taught me about mice as I step into a snow boot filled with bird seeds and droppings.”

    His response was priceless: “Nice place to live. Cheap rent.”My response: “Agreed.”

    I may not ever live up to my mother-in-law’s reputation as a “bad ass” grandma, but I can say that after mice and ice, I do have at least a little grit.

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