When my oldest was in 4th or 5th grade, she told me one morning that there was a mouse in her bed.
“There’s no mouse in your bed!” I said.
“There is,” she said. “I felt it crawling over my leg.”
She went off to school, and I told my mother, who was visiting from Iowa, what she’d said.
“There’s no mouse in her bed!” my mother said.
Then it all came back to me, the times, as a child, that I’d try to tell my mother something and how she had dismissed me.
I grew up in a one-and-a-half-story house, which meant that the second floor had slanting walls with a window at each end. By the time I reached 5 feet, 10 inches, I could only walk down the center of the room. My two sisters and I shared that crazy loftlike bedroom for years.
My single bed was close to the window next to a large elm tree. One stormy night, I heard the tree creaking in the wind. The next morning, I looked out and saw a crack where the two tallest limbs split off to reach the sky.
“Mom, the tree has a crack in it,” I said. “It’s going to break.”
“The tree’s not going to break,” my mom said.
“It is,” I said. “I heard it creaking.”
“You worry too much,” my mom said. “Go to school.”
The tree creaked for weeks or maybe months. Then one winter day, I came home from school and found half of the elm tree sprawled across the front yard in the snow. It had just missed the house when it fell.
“The tree broke!” I said as I ran inside. “I told you it had a crack!”
My mother dismissed me and said, “The storm knocked the tree over.”
“Yes, because it had a crack where the limbs split!”
There was no convincing my mother.
Now, she sat across me at the breakfast table, sipping her coffee after the kids had gone to school. I didn’t want to dismiss my daughter’s comments without a thorough investigation. I needed to see if there was a mouse in her bed.
Full disclaimer –the house backed up to open space and shared a side yard with neighbors who had a ¾ acre lot. The kitchen had a nasty trash compactor, which could hold a week’s worth of garbage.
I took two plastic trash bags into my daughter’s bedroom and filled them up with her mountain of stuffed animals on the bed. Then I took off the comforter and the sheets and was down to the mattress cover when I turned to my mother, who was standing in the doorway, saying, “There’s no mouse.”
She was dismissing her granddaughter’s comments much as she had dismissed mine.
“The moment of truth!” I said.
I reached for the mattress cover. As I pulled it off the double bed, a tiny vole flew up into the air and landed on the carpet.
I screamed. My mother screamed. I grabbed a waste basket and put it over the stunned animal. Then I slid a piece of cardboard under the basket and carried the tiny thing outside.
I can’t kill animals, not even spiders. Well, maybe ants in my kitchen. And mosquitos.
As I loaded up the washing machine with my daughter’s bedding, my mom kept up the converstion.
I brought up the elm tree from my childhood, and she dismissed it once again.
I didn’t want to do that to my kids, especially when they were right. Validation means someone is hearing you.
There really had been a teeny tiny mouse in my daughter’s bed.
Couldda Wouldda Didda
I wrote my first double memoir blog post, me remembering my memories as an adult while remembering my memories as a child.