Mice, chocolate, and life lessons

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Editor’s note: This week, we introduce a new occasional News + Record columnist: Jan Hutton.

A contractor left my crawlspace door ajar. The mice were rejoicing. These little critters were able to make entrance into my house through the tiniest of spaces — the size of a dime. And, bingo, they discovered my birdseed storage closet, snacked on several hot pepper bird suet bars, nested in and chewed through an electric blanket, and left their tiny scat. I didn’t particularly care for my end of the exchange.

My self-image is that of a pacifist, avoiding killing things, if it all possible. I even have a pacifistic roach trapping system, (mostly) allowing me to transport the Kafkaesque critters outside. I say “mostly“ because late at night, when I’m really tired, I have been known to pull out the vacuum cleaner. (OK, sue me; I’m human.)

Using humane mousetraps, I simply wanted to remove them (and their mouse-y contributions) from my house. Initial bait failures: peanut butter, raw nuts, cheese and even birdseed (OMG) so I consulted Dr. Google. Chocolate, bacon, and jelly beans are mouse-y faves. Who knew? (Now, you do.) Hershey’s almond chocolate worked like gangbusters! I caught four mice, having gorged themselves on the Hershey candy pieces. (Would this classify as going on a mouse-y “bender?”)

Released them outside my house. BIG mistake. My more experienced humane mouse catcher friends, and Dr. Google, explained, “you need to take them at least a couple of miles away, or they will find their way back.” Arghh!

Started over. More chocolate. Another captured mouse early the next morning. The sun barely peeping up, threw on sweats, put the mousetrap in my car, and drove to an isolated gravel road two miles away. Opened both ends of the trap and — NOTHING! The little critter wouldn’t budge — at all.

Tried to prod with a stick. Nope. Getting cranky. Uh, oh, sliding into my frustrated/anger zone, something I try to be mindful of. When cognizant, I try to do a breathing exercise or eat. I did neither.

OK, yes, l lost it. I picked up the HUMANE trap and violently tried to shake out the mouse. It worked AND I felt terrible. The little critter just sat there in the grass and didn’t move. All the other released mice had just scampered away. I don’t know if I mortally injured the mouse. Feeling powerless, not knowing what else to do, I returned to the car and left. And continued to kick myself all the way home. AND, also, at home, and ….

Well, geez, as much as it feels warranted, continuing to kick myself only bruises my soul. My soul is important to me even when I crash and burn, just as I did here. (Self flagellation is not on my bucket list; being human and forgiving are.)

Begin again. Begin again and help myself become the person I want to be. This is where the air began to fill my lungs again and I could breathe past my contraction of sadness and self-anger. Begin again and accept my caring and often-challenged humanity and learn from it …

Jan Hutton is a retired hospice/hospital social worker who believes in living life with heart and humor. She has happily lived in Chatham for 20 years.

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