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Seven Hills

Boston-area exploration, travel notes, crafty things, and other Somervillainy.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Calendar Days

One of my favorite parts of the holidays has always been these dead days between Christmas and New Year's. If you're a student or are fortunate enough to have the time off from work, there's nothing much to do but sleep late and sit around enjoying the spoils of the season.

When I was growing up we would usually stay with my cousins in Michigan from Christmas night through New Year's, all a pleasant, leisurely blur of building snow forts, playing board games, going to movies at Maple Hill Mall, and, one memorable year, obsessively reading my Christmas copy of "Anne of Green Gables" by the big stone fireplace, then wowing my cousin while playing Barbies by using a storyline ripped off from the book.

During one winter break in college, my roommate Susanna and I both got back to school a few days ahead of our other roommates and had a great time acting goofy together (I recall her mimicking a gasping fish, flopping around on our dorm room floor for my amusement) and bumming around the nearly deserted campus. She told me her brother used to call days like these calendar days, those blank squares that fill out the grid of each month, in-between, unaccounted-for days that are so off the radar they don't even get a number.

I find this concept immensely relaxing, as though time can stop, or simply cease to exist, for just a few days, and for once I'm allowed to stop worrying about getting things done. In recent years I've spent most of my holiday calendar days plopped on the couch watching movies like "Love Actually" over and over and eating with abandon the various chocolate truffles and candies people have given us. If I do anything productive, it's something I feel I can't ever find time for on normal days, like completely scrubbing down the toaster oven, or making a personalized storybook for a friend's January birthday.

Re-reading "Anne of Green Gables" sounds pretty good right about now, but not until I'm finished with "Bridget Jones's Diary," a favorite bit of delectable fluff I like to revisit at this time of year. Bridget knows just what I'm talking about, by the way:

"Cannot face thought of going to work ... Desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate and watching Xmas specials. It seems wrong and unfair that Christmas, with its stressful and unmanageable financial and emotional challenges, should first be forced upon one wholly against one's will, then rudely snatched away just when one is starting to get into it. Was really beginning to enjoy the feeling that normal service was suspended and it was OK to lie in bed as long as you want, put anything you fancy into your mouth, and drink alcohol whenever it should chance to pass your way, even in the mornings. Now suddenly we are all supposed to snap into self-discipline like lean teenage greyhounds."

She doesn't want the calendar days to be over, either.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Seasons Greetings

From all of us here at Somervillain and Co., have yourselves a merry little holiday!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

My First Mousetrap

The Somervillain is most definitely a city mouse. I grew up in urban Chicago, and first started taking the public bus alone at the age of seven. (When I was six, an older girl was paid 25 cents a ride to accompany me to and from school every day.) Cockroaches I am familiar with. Silverfish, yes. But household pests of flesh and blood are new terrain for me.

During the last few years my father lived in rural New York, and after he died this year I became responsible for his house. Just recently we finally felt ready to put it on the market. While we were elated by how quickly it sold, that also meant we were immediately plunged into the process of getting ready to vacate, i.e., many hours spent in a country hamlet three hours from the seven hills of Somerville.

I knew my dad had some trouble with mice in the fall and winter (he liked to tell me tales of "Joe vs. the Mice," kind of like "Joe vs. the Volcano," but much, much smaller), and my understanding is that this is pretty much par for the course when you live in the sticks. Still, I was hoping we might "squeak" by without any trouble from the vermin before the closing.

Things were going pretty well for awhile, but then the signs of furry company began to appear. A paper bag of flour gnawed to pieces in the pantry, little rice-like grains of turd along the baseboards in the kitchen. We got rid of all the foodstuffs not safely armored in cans and felt pretty proud of ourselves, until one weekend I left a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop overnight. It was still sticky with deglazed steak au poivre when I went to bed that night, and in the morning it was thoroughly peppered with tiny poops. Who knew mice pooped so much? Do the poops rain down with every morsel that passes their little mousey lips, or is it even more constant than that, a Hansel-and-Gretel trail following them where ever they roam?

Now that it's finally gotten colder out here, I suspect that Friend Mouse is staying inside even more. It seems that even if I only leave the kitchen for five minutes, when I return there is new evidence that he/she has paid me a visit. A solitary turd in the pan under the dish rack. A scattering behind the wine bottle. A fresh one laid saucily in the Kleenex I thoughtlessly left on the counter just moments ago.

Still, in spite of all this, we hadn't actually seen the mouse itself until today. (I like to think there is only one Mouse, and not Mice.) Today was apparently Mouse Sighting Day, at least for my stalwart boyfriend (who is equally if not more unhappy about the presence of small critters in the home). First, while I was on the phone in the kitchen, he walked in, stopped short, and said, simply, "Whoa." Kind of like you might say "whoa" as you watched a comet crashing into earth, and found all other words had escaped you. Friend Mouse had just made its debut, zipping behind the refrigerator.

Then later in the afternoon he took my dad's old car, the one that's been sitting unused in the driveway for several months, down to the gas station for some attention. When he returned he told me I would be happy to know my "new car" came with an extra feature - another mouse! It had been driven out of the car's innards by the unfamiliar experience of a running engine and skittered around on the passenger side before disappearing again.

A family friend stopped by tonight, and when I mentioned the car had a resident he told me I should put a trap in it. As it happened I had just thrown away my dad's reusable mousetrap earlier in the day, thinking the mouse wasn't going to be my problem for much longer, but now, chastened, I dug it out of the trash again. It was covered in coffee grounds. Our friend had offered to set it for me, but then other people dropped by and he got distracted and drove off, leaving the grim task to me. Luckily there was still an unopened jar of peanut butter in the pantry. The only thing I know about mice is that they really like peanut butter.

I know the trap is effective - it already went off once when I set it on the roof of the car while I opened the door. I reset the spring, then placed it invitingly on the floor, at an angle. I feel sad for the mouse, but better that it dies this way than taking us both down in a fiery crash after startling me in heavy traffic on the Mass Pike. And now that I've gotten past my initial resistance to setting the trap, slathering on the peanut butter, and above all making a pointed effort to snuff out a little rodent, I'm sort of curious to know what's happening out there. Did the trap catch it yet? Is that the snap of hinges I hear, or just someone slamming a door? Is it working? And if so, did the mouse get one sweet taste of peanut butter before the fanged jaws sprang shut?

I find I'm looking forward to going out to check on the car tomorrow almost as though it were Christmas morning. What will I find there, under the tree? "Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house ..."