I am in the process of unpacking a box filled with dishes from my old house in Kent, Ohio. The box was packed by my mother in the summer of 2000, before we moved from Kent to Amherst, Mass. We moved mid-August that year. Fifteen years.
I know the dishes were packed by my mom—systematic, careful, each china plate and each china cup wrapped in a plastic bag and, in turn, wrapped in newspaper. The newspaper, before 9/11. Summer 2000. Nobody knows. We are safe in our beds, we are asleep. We dream of our stock portfolios and our trips across oceans. Everything is normal and we are naive, babies. One more year and we’ll be in the shit forever.
But I want to write about the box. As I get deeper into the box, pulling up the wrapped cups and saucers, I find droppings, shredded paper, acorn tops, seeds: evidence of mice.
The funniest thing to me, the most amazing, is that the mice had gathered up 6 or 7 pieces of a toy brick building kit from the same basement cupboard where the dishes had been stored.
Paul and I bought the brick house kit in Bavaria in 1992 on our honeymoon trip to Europe. We didn’t have kids yet, but knew we wanted a family. We loved the German toys: solid; well-made; beautiful in form, color, and design. The box was wooden with a lid that slid into the bottom, cleverly designed. The bricks were real and the kit came with mortar that you’d mix to make the structure permanent.
We never made the house out of the bricks, but one of my daughters would sometimes pull out the box and build up the little house as best she could. It was surprisingly more complicated than one would think (it does make a real structure after all) and the instructions were in German. Finally this year, I gave the toy away. Little did I know that several pieces were missing.
How did a little mouse carry a brick into its home? Do they drag these things with their mousey teethessess? These bricks do look as if they could be made into a mouse house, the scale would be appropriate, brick to mouse, bricks to mouse house.
In any case, I don’t like mice nesting in my house. They smell and they are abundant and secretive. They are cute as hell, the mice. I don’t think we have any any more, but when we bought the house, the entire house smelled of old mice nests and for good reason. The former owners apparently never cleaned and weren’t bothered by the old and musty odor emanating from the basement. It being a ranch house, this wasn’t far from kitchen and living quarters. Eww.
Paul pulled out the insulation from the basement rafters way back then and it was full of nests; hundreds of mice, no doubt.
Still, I think mice are amazing and adorable. Over the years, we had mice in spite of the fact that we always had cats and yet the mice thrived (throved?). Stupid cats.
The words German and brick inevitably make me think of the ovens of the Holocaust. I’m searching for photos on google images and even the little photos of German brick toy kits are too reminiscent of all things German for me.
My German mother and my German blood, my Jewish father and my Jewish blood. The brick ovens. It never stops, does it?