As expected, eight-year-old Kelly wailed when she learned her pet hamster Henry died. She asked me if she could hold him. Hold him she did, for half an hour. She made a little bed of sorts with a paper towel carefully folded under his body and a sweet little top sheet made from a Husson's Pizza napkin. If Henry so chooses, from the afterlife he can order the largest pizza in town.
In our family we use humor as a yardstick to gauge where we stand emotionally. Later in the evening I pointedly caught and held my daughter's eye and asked, "What do you think about making a raft out of popsicle sticks and giving him a Viking funeral once the rain picks up? I think the flow in the gutter would support his weight."
Kelly tried to look unhappy but the twinkle in her eyes gave her away.
"That would be awesome. Can I help you make the raft?"
The rain didn't pick up and we didn't make a raft – never intended to, of course. Later in the evening I came up with another idea, since no one had offered to take on the task of burying our little hamster. In our family, it's customary for someone to volunteer to bury a pet. Otherwise, Daddy does it by default.
"Hey, Kelly, maybe you could just take Henry to school tomorrow for show and tell," I teased. My husband glared at me. Apparently, he'll be the one to volunteer for burial duty.
"That would be fun, Mama," Kelly said.
James chimed in. "Yeah, you could say he was alive when you left home, and then see how panicked your new teacher gets."
I knew Kelly would be fine when she added, "I'll take him in a Ziploc bag and when we `discover' that he's dead I'll say, `Wow, guess these Ziploc bags don't keep things as fresh as you'd think.'"
Doc began putting on his shoes. "Somebody bring me the damned shovel."