Quarantined with mice: We’re all doing the best we can.

In our new normal, dough is the new sign of wealth. Not the green kind, but the bread kind we need to feed our families—and right now, it’s especially precious and scarce. So imagine my horror a few days ago to open my bread drawer and find a gaping hole in the bag that packaged my Arnold 100% Whole Wheat, and an alarming number of the slices were half-chewed.

Friends, don’t tell the government, but it turns out I had house guests. And after weeks of being forced to keep my distance from strangers, having to share the home that had become my sanctuary with a family of rodents was more than horrifying, it was too close for comfort.

I don’t have to tell you how hard it has been to procure groceries to keep my ever hungry brood fed, the late night maneuverings to nab a delivery slot and the silent prayers hoping that when the delivery day finally comes, the store will actually have the perishables we need in stock. So as my husband went to war setting up a perimeter of mousetraps to defend our food supply, I did what any mama in my circumstance would do. I poured myself another tequila and cried. Like, hysterically. 

The day before, the governor had shut all of New Jersey’s parks and woods right as Spring Break was starting. There was no place to go. Nothing to do except hunker down. The internet meme I’d printed out and taped to my fridge said, “You’re not stuck at home. You’re safe at home.” Except now I wasn’t. Virus outside, mice inside. I couldn’t leave but I wanted to be anywhere but here.

Well, those mousetraps that I’d reluctantly agreed to let my husband slather in precious peanut butter were worth the condiment sacrifice because right away, SNAP, we caught one, and the guy was huge. So was the next mouse we caught soon after. And that should have been a comfort, right? They were taking the bait. The humans were winning

But then that evening we nestled into the family room that opens into our kitchen to watch a movie and all we kept hearing was SNAP SNAP SNAP. Mother of god, was this an infestation? I cried some more and wondered if I would make it out alive.

Within the span of a day, we caught eight mice. Enough of a death toll to suggest a spike. In a time when the restaurants we live near are all closed and the rodents who depend on them are starving, would we ever be able to flatten the curve?

But I woke up today and there were no mice in the traps. No more droppings. All the food that had been in our pantry when we’d gone to bed was still intact. My husband declared victory (perhaps prematurely?), saying, “I think it was just a family, and we got them all.”

And of course there was relief and hope, but there was also sadness. If it was just one family of mice, it was their family. Their only crime, hunger, their only flaw, being a bunch of notches lower than us on the food chain. With that perspective, I made peace with the problem. Maybe the worst of it is over, maybe like the bigger reality our whole world is in, we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Those mice were trying to survive just like my family is. And I cannot blame them. Right now, we’re all doing the best we can.

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