It is no rare thing for both of my children to come home from school excited about one thing or another.
Silly socks. Pajama day. Ice cream during lunchtime…Wait, you bought ice cream with your lunch money, kid?? You little genius, you.
Yesterday was no exception.
They both got off the bus and climbed the steps to the porch with smiling faces, exclaiming before I could even welcome them home that they “met Humphrey today!”
The only Humphrey I have ever heard of was the Bogart, “here’s looking at you, kid,” kind, and despite my obviously decent taste in classic movies, I was fairly certain this was not who my six and four year old were talking about.
I had driven past the front of the school over the last few days, and noted the sign with the words, “Welcome Humphrey!” emblazoned proudly in black bold letters, and suddenly deduced that these entities were one in the same.
The children explained to me that Humphrey was a hamster, visiting the school over the course of the next few weeks. Every classroom will get a turn having Humphrey in their room with them each day. My children were ecstatic over the news and at the prospect of having a tiny new friend to call their own.
All that I could think about was what a terrifying job that must be for a tiny ball of fur. When I asked the children what Humphrey looked like, neither one could admit to having actually SEEN Humphrey. Because, well, “he hid under his blue house thing the whole time.”
Wouldn’t you? I know I would.
If I were barely bigger than a plum, and was being stared at by twenty-two sets of eyes every hour, I would want to hide and stay as far away from any other living creature as possible.
My son speculated that Humphrey had a white belly with a back full of peach fur. I opined that he was probably very nervous and scared of all of his new friends. My son just shrugged his shoulders.
These days, I feel a little like Humphrey.
2016 has not been kind to my family thus far.
Unexpected maintenance costs for our home are chipping away at our dreams of a family vacation (and a savings account, for that matter), uninterrupted waves of sickness and the loss of not one, but two beloved, elderly family pets within the span of a month. Suddenly, life is like the 44 prying eyes staring eagerly at me, and I want to make like Humphrey and hide under my plastic blue house until someone switches off the lights because I’m pretty sure that all life wants is to devour me or flush me down the toilet or <insert any other kind of awful death that you can think of.>
Humphrey, I totally understand you.
I understand what it’s like to want to stay discreetly tucked away in my bedding, though mine is of the cotton and memory foam variety and yours is of the cedar kind.
I know what it is like to want to stay in your own tiny world, with things the way you would like them to be, while life casually taps on the glass to remind you that not only is it there, but it brought along twenty-two of its closest friends to help keep you company.
I wish that I could tell you that life just decides to up and get better without much input or effort from us. I wish that I could tell you, Humphrey, that it gets less scary the bigger you are, but that isn’t true.
The bigger you are, the more you feel like you are in control only to come to find out that you most certainly are not. The bigger you are, the more secure you feel. You feel like you’re smarter than the hamster that runs on its wheel day in and day out, and that you have come so much further.
Then life tar and feathers you and then stands back to point and laugh.
Sometimes, no matter what is going on, you still feel small and helpless. You remember that life likes to crash and bang you around without warning. You find out that you’re still in the cage of your own expectations.
Sometimes, you don’t want to make peace with life because you both have other ideas of what it’s actually like to be friends or to be happy or to be content with the way things are.
Life is a series of lessons, and just when you think you get a grasp on what things are going to be like, life likes to rattle the cage.
Sometimes, life is a margarita and a seventy degree evening on Taco Tuesday, and you don’t have to be into work the next day. Sometimes, life is your children laying down for bed and staying there the first time you ask. Sometimes, life is a bowl of Haagen-dazs on a Sunday afternoon when all of your laundry is done.
Sometimes, life is ridiculous and unseemly, and cannot control itself. Sometimes, life is the Adobe button on your computer that keeps reminding you that you have an update pending. Sometimes, life is hitting every single red light on your way into town.
Sometimes, life is like a room full of kindergarteners.
I suppose the difference between you and me, Humphrey, is that life can be what I make of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I envy you the notion of ignorant bliss, and the idea that all one needs in life is a spinning wheel and a blue, plastic thing to hide under. Because I’m expected to take those lemons that life gives me, and make some lemonade. Only you can’t make lemonade with salt, only with sweetness. At least, any lemonade that’s worth drinking.
I’m supposed to remember how good I have it, despite everything going on. Because it’s the truth, I do have it good.