“Auntie Janet is the Universal Mother,” my son has told me, repeatedly.
Thanks, son. Sure, I've raised you for the past 20-odd years and you're not an ax-murderer or anything, and never mind that incident with my car...
Actually, I can't disagree with him. There is something about my sister that surrounds her like an aura, emanating the sense of “A Mother is Here...Help Provided” Whenever I've gone out with Janet – to a play, or whatever – and left her for 30 seconds to visit the Ladies Room, she is surrounded by strangers when I get back. She could be giving directions, holding a cranky baby, hemming a skirt (in the aisle!) People seem to zero in on her. Some years ago she made a trip to San Francisco, which she enjoyed, except for the fact she was mobbed by street people wherever she went.
“I don't understand it,” she said. “No matter how many tourists were on the street, the panhandlers all came up to me.”
Just recently, Janet's boss asked her to sub for her, teaching a university class. Very excited, Janet prepared well – she wanted to give a professional presentation to these young adults. At the end of her opening comments, she asked if there were any questions. One young woman put up her hand.
“Do you have a lot of children?”
Yes, Janet admitted. She'd had 4 children.
The young woman smiled. “You seem like a mom.”
She has that face. Or something. However, the following events are rather illuminating.
Now, please know that Janet and I live in wine country. Our homes stand on land that was once orchards or vineyards. All the creatures (deer, coyotes, rabbits, wild turkeys and smaller critters) still think this is their home. And when the weather turns brisk, they avail themselves of the amenities.
“I think I have mice in the kitchen,” Janet told me. “Do you have any of those catch-and-release traps?” She couldn't even consider traditional mouse traps, with her animal-loving daughters at home.
Well, I did and I lent them to her: 3 grey plastic tube-like traps that were 6.00 apiece. These must have been built by mice, for mice, because the little creatures instinctively knew how to rob the bait and get away. They glutted themselves on peanut butter without even leaving a thank you note.
Janet purchased a more substantial trap – suitable for housing ocelots – and tried again. Success! In the morning she had a furry intruder safely secured. Her daughters marched the cage 2 blocks to the park and ceremoniously released him. That night Janet baited trap again. Her youngest daughter Danielle watched with her arms folded, a bemused expression on her face.
“I don't know why you're bothering, Mom. He's not gonna fall for it again.”
Oh, Danielle, you sweet, innocent child.
Mouse after mouse 'fell for it.' Once, when the trip to the park was delayed, Janet's oldest daughter, Zoe, fed the prisoner some homemade raisin bread to 'tide him over.'
“And he ate it, Mom!” she said excitedly.
No kidding. He probably started sending postcards to his family and friends as soon as he was released in the park:
“Darling, wish you were here. The hotel is FAB – you wouldn't believe the food . And the service! I had meals right to my room.”
In fact, one little nipper actually had to be shaken out of the cage. He wasn't willing to give up the room.
Well, the weeks went on and I forgot about the events in the hubbub of the holidays. After Christmas I remembered to ask Janet how 'Project Mouse' was going.
She looked down. “Well, I've sort of backed off.”
Really? Why? Things had been going so swimmingly.
“I know,” she said. “But it's gotten cold, and it's snowed. How could I put those little things out into the snow?”
That is the answer from a UM – Universal Mother. And even mice know a soft touch when they see it.