If there is a goddess of animals, it's my mother. She has such a reputation for helping animals in despair that people are constantly bringing her homeless cats, injured birds, rejected baby raccoons, all sorts of needy animals. She takes them into her country house and nurses them back to health. One morning when Mom went to get the mail, she found a dog tied to the mailbox with a note that said, "Please take care of me." Of course she took him in. Mom treats all animals like this.
In the winter, when the field mice get tired of the cold, they move inside. Naturally, the mice choose a warm, provisionally abundant place to live in: the kitchen. They find the cabinets most pleasant. As all country-house dwellers know, you must curb the mice problem before it gets out of hand. The kitchen mice spread the word to all their friends, and soon enough you've got the whole forest living in your kitchen cabinets. But, Mom has prohibited the use of traditional spring-loaded mousetraps. Instead, she uses live traps, baited with Brie cheese. She apologizes profusely to each one as she catches him. When the mouse is finished dining on the cheese, Mom takes the cage and puts it into the Cadillac and the mouse gets his luxury, chauffeured trip five miles down the road to a farmer's field. Once Mom sets the mouse free, she drives back home to catch the next one.
My mom would rather escort a spider out the front door than step on it. I've even heard her thank them for visiting as she tosses them out of the house back into nature. "You never know which one might be Charlotte," she says. (She does have a point.) She tries to keep the domestic spider population down by strategically placing hedge apples around the house, usually under the sofa and behind plants. She says spiders don't like the smell of hedge apples so they stay away. When Mom picks them in the spring from the neighbor's hedge apple tree down the street, they are as big as softballs. By the end of the summer they have rotted and shriveled up to the size of golf balls. Nonetheless, Mom leaves the hedge apples in place all winter long and in the spring, she throws out the old, black, rotted ones, now covered with spider webs, and replaces them with fresh green ones.
Insects fascinate my mom. She has a big magnifying glass that she uses specifically for checking out ant colonies. "Oh look! " she'll say, while spying a line of ants marching across the kitchen floor. "Look at what these ants are carrying back to the anthill today. Isn't it amazing how they can lift something hundreds of times bigger than themselves?" At first I think she's just being Mom, and I say, "Uh-huh," and continue what I'm doing. But then I stop and decide to go ahead and look at these tiny creatures that God has put on this earth. "Yeah, you're right, Mom, they really are fantastic creatures. Mom? MOM!! That's your diamond ring they're carrying away!"
My mother died last year, but I still send her special thanks on Mother's Day. I haven't stopped finding rotten hedge apples around the house, either.
Follow Amy Chavez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JapanLite