Brady was my first pet, a light brown hamster. Nelson was the second, also a hamster, but this story is about Brady. Oh, yah and I had a dog Skipper I've mentioned before, but this was my first pet I took care of all on my own. A friend of mine had a gerbil from about the second through fourth grade years. Her name was Casey. I wanted a little furry pet like she had, so I asked Mom and Dad if I could get one too. So, I was about eight or nine, in the early 1990s when I got him. I was in the third grade. I remember going to the local Mounds Pet food store in town and looking into the various cages. Mom really didn't want me to get anything with a tail. Hamsters don't have tails, so that seemed like a good fit. After that, it was really about color. I liked the lighter ones. My cousin had a guinea pig at one point in a glass tank, so I sorta knew what the set up would require for which ever one I chose. After I picked out my hamster, not a super defining moment that I can remember, we stocked up on wood chips for the bedding. We also got a glass tank for his cage, food, a food bowl, and a water bottle that hung on the side of the cage. That was pretty much it. Oh, and I even got a Mounds candy bar on the way out! I loved that about the Mounds Pet food store because they always gave customers mini Mounds candy bars when you checked out! That's the first time I started to love coconut and chocolate together. I loved the jingle too: "Almond Joy's got nuts. Mounds, don't!"
I remember getting a shiny round button that said "Jesus loves me" at Sunday School as a little girl. Raised catholic, my family would go to church on Sundays regularly so I got used to the routine of it all. I remember sitting on the church kneeler in front of my parents looking under the pews at everyone's shoes. It was incredibly tempting not to touch them! I especially loved the music. I'd hum along when I recognized what the choir was singing and sometimes would even sing the songs when I got home because they'd get stuck in my head. But besides loving the familiar music and the idea that someone out there I'd never met loved me, the best thing about Sundays was having brunch afterwards with my Great Grandma Rose. Great Grandma Rose was old. Really old. She lived in an apartment right next door to our church. In fact, she'd lived in that apartment for over 50 years! While I don't remember her joining us for church, we'd always be invited up to have a brunch afterwards. Thinking about it now, I suppose she was busy making it so it'd be ready when mass was done. Brunch with Rose consisted of eggs, orange juice, toast and jelly packets, of which she had told my mom at one point she had stuck in her purse from various restaurants! No joke.
I jumped up on the queen-sized bed, almost slipping off as the patchwork quilt that covered it began to slide down towards the floor. Grabbing a handful of the colorful fabric I hoisted myself up on top, just enough so my white tennis shoes could still dangle over the edge. I buried my face in the pillows like a dramatic scene out of a movie, and began to sob. The sunshine came in through the sheer white curtains that just touched the floor. A planter of various prickly cactus plants sat underneath the window. As I turned my face out to catch my breath, I wondered if the two had ever gotten caught together.I stared at the pastel flower and ribbon patterned wallpaper. It was comforting to know this was the room Mom and Dad stayed in when we visited Grandma and Grandpa's. But this time I had come to stay a whole week, on my own.
Looking over a bucket of water full of suds, I watched as bubbles popped one by one. The familiar smiley face I was used to bobbed gently as I poked at it with my finger. Mom had submerged my sunshine shaped, plush toy in for a soak. I called him "My Buddy." This was in the backyard of my old house in Madison, Wisconsin. I must have been two or three I suppose. So it was 1984 or 1985. It was summertime and my mom was home because she was a teacher and had the summers off. I remember having to wait for My Buddy to dry in the sun. It seemed like it took forever!
"With or without lumps?" It was the question that always followed the request my sisters and I would have for Cream of Wheat when Grandma K. was around. And if she wasn't in the kitchen, she'd be sewing or knitting projects making things for us. A coin purse she gave me reminds me of my Grandma K. and these memories.