I walked into the kitchen tonight to put the dishes in the dishwasher and found a mouse standing on the stove looking up at me. It was a cute mouse, as mice go, but still.
For the longest time it was Catherine who was our liaison to the mouse kingdom: she grew up on a farm, and was well familiar with their ways.
A few years ago, as moving around became more difficult for her, and as I started to be last one to bed and first one up in the morning, I had no choice but to take over the diplomacy. I did not come by it honestly, and I still don’t. But I’ve figured it out.
It’s unusual to see a mouse around this time of year: their interest in our kitchen is generally restricted to a few weeks in spring and a few weeks in fall. But here was a mouse—a cute mouse, but still—in the middle of the winter. So I set the traps, with a barely-there amount of peanut butter, as instructed by my physicist friend, and in the morning, if things go according to plan, it will fall to me—who else is there—to empty them.
You may be asking “how can he go to sleep at night knowing that mice will probably be setting up camp in his bedcovers while he sleeps?” That is a good question.
The answer lies in the nature of my bedroom door, which, fortunately, is magic.
My bedroom door, like most of the doors in this 194 year old house, doesn’t close smoothly. But it does close, if given a little shove, and that is the source of its magic.
When Catherine’s illness got to the point where she needed a bed of her own, and moved across the hall, for the first time in many years I was sleeping by myself every night. It was cold and lonely, yes, but in a way also a sanctuary: a place all my own. The shove and gentle thud when I closed the door at the end of every day at bedtime, long after Catherine and Oliver were fast sleep, became a kind of airlock for for me, an avatar for keeping whatever exigencies might have filled yesterday, and might again fill tomorrow, at bay.
During the years Catherine was sick, that door allowed me some small measure of personal geography; I credit it, and its thud, for helping me keep my head above water.
It also proves useful in any number of other ways: it’s very helpful for meditation, for example, to have the rest of the world not exist for a time. And it keeps the mice, and, indeed worry about the mice, on the other side.