Philadelphia, PA – 1974
When I was in sixth grade, this kid Tommy Goodwin (Who was actually bad) brought in these cute baby mice into school for show and tell. They were adorable. I remember at the time I was in love with this girl named Rosalie. I remember what love felt like back then too. It was sitting next to her in school. It was holding hands with her when they were showing a film in class about something. (Because the lights were out) It was passing notes with little sentiments like, “Do you like me?” with Yes and a No box next to the words. I did kiss her once near the end of the school year in the vestibule by the front door. My heart swooned!
Anyway, Rosalie tells me she wants me to get her some mice and stuff. Of course me being a big shot and trying to be cool around her tell I can do it. She brings in $10 the next day. Where an 11-year-old girl got a ten spot back in 1974 I’ll never know. I never had any money. Let alone a whole ten dollars!
So me and my friend Michael go to the pet store on Rising Sun Avenue (In Northeast Philly) and go scope out some mice. We ask the guy running the store where are the mice, and he says he doesn’t have any. But he does have some hamsters. We go look at the hamsters and they look even cuter than the mice! I buy about four or five of them and some hamster food.
I don’t even remember how we got them home. I can’t tell my parents about this because of a myriad of reasons. I shouldn’t be taking money from other kids. Other kids shouldn’t be giving me said money to buy them pets. No parents are involved in the transaction. Does this girl’s parents know they are getting a family of hamsters tomorrow?
There is a big wooden board about five feet wide and eight feet tall against the wall in my garage. I had a plastic aquarium out there behind that board. I once had tadpoles in it and watched as they metamorphosized into frogs. It was really a brilliant thing to witness first hand. The legs pop out first. Then one arm (Apparently the arm forms on whatever side is closer to the lungs as they develop) than the other arm, and it’s cool because you can hold them. They just look like skinnier tadpoles with arms and legs and a shorter tail. You can hold them and they can’t hop away and they’re breathing air. Kids like to hold stuff rather than just look at stuff.
They eventually became complete frogs and literally hopped away! It was great. We enjoyed the first part of their journey with them!
So I put the hamsters in the container and give them a bunch of food and cover the top. (Don’t worry they can breathe)
The next day I go into school and tell my beloved that I have acquired sort of what she wanted. I tell her they didn’t have any mice but I got her something even better. Cute hamsters. She tells me her mom won’t let her have hamsters or mice and to just keep them. I try to give her the change from the ten and she doesn’t want that either. She apologizes if there is any trouble but she just can’t take them.
I think my family would be cool with me keeping them in the garage and taking care of them, but this was a shady transaction where I took money from another child and bought hamsters. I’m sure they would see it that way, and I should have known better and would have gotten in trouble. I was in trouble enough back then. So I decided to thicken the plot by keeping the hamsters a secret.
But here’s the problem. My family was going down the shore for the summer. Who would feed my hamsters?
I hit up my friend Michael and he says he’ll stop over and check on them every couple of days. I thank him profusely.
So we go to the shore for the summer. A couple of weeks go by. Back then my dad still worked at the bank in Philly. He would just come down on the weekends to hang with the family. It was a good time. We were all happy and we’d build big sandcastles in the morning. (My dad was hands down the best sandcastle empire builder in North Wildwood) All of the kids would work on it and then we would watch as the high tide would come up and destroy it!
It was awesome!
One weekend he comes down. We’re sitting at dinner and he says to my mom, “I think we may have a rodent problem in our garage.”
My fork grinds to a halt on the way to my mouth.
“Yea, they’re cute little guys though.”
My sisters are saying it’s gross, etc. Then the conversation moves onto another topic.
So I call Michael from a payphone around the corner, just to cover my tracks. Don’t want any pesky phone records to foil my plan to keep my ill-gotten hamsters a secret.
“My dad said he saw one of the hamsters in the garage!”
“Are you still going over to check on them and feeding them?”
“Sometimes I can’t get in the garage and sometimes I forget.”
I’m thinking it’s the latter.
“Well maybe you could go in there and just take the whole aquarium and hide it somewhere else.”
“I don’t know. Think of something.”
So the next weekend, my dad comes down. We’re sitting down to dinner.
“Did you see any more of the mice in the garage, Dad? I say meekly.
“Yea, quite a few.”
“But I put some traps down and got ’em all.”
I hope you all enjoyed this funny little story. I remember my sisters and parents went insane laughing years later when I told them the untold true story of Rosalie’s Rodents!
Here’s an old love letter I found from little Rosalie.
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