Books · Family life · Local

Of Mice and Men and Morning Duty

One of my favorite scenes to read aloud from Of Mice and Men.

I killed a mouse this morning.  In a trap, mind you, not with my bare hands.  The worst part is that I’ve been hunting mice for weeks unsuccessfully.  Not yet 6 AM, I picked up the white trap splattered with what appeared to be dried chocolate milk, next to the garbage can, wondering aloud to Geoff about what our kids could have spilled. It was then I noticed the slightly sour smell, and realized there was a mouse inside the trap, clearly a dead one.

I checked the other mouse trap.  Those sneaky rascals have been taunting me and our cabinets.  I’ve cleaned an inordinate amount of mouse poop from the cupboard above our microwave.   The second mouse trap was empty, even devoid of the peanut butter bait.  He must be a very small, very smart mouse to escape with his life and the peanut butter treat.  All the while, Greta, in her pajamas, is pointing out to me that we should be using “mouse cheese” since all mice love mouse cheese.  I know we can thank old fashioned yet still a classic “Tom and Jerry” for the mice- love- Swiss- fact of life.

Incidentally, we’ve been reading about the famous George and Lennie of Steinbeck’s classic in 9th grade, and I love how every year a solid crew of kids, readers and non-readers alike, are captivated by the character who accidentally kills the mice he loves by petting them too hard.  By non readers, I mean they would rather be doing anything but reading; they would prefer hard labor to reading an assigned book for my English class.  But Lennie they love. And they especially love being read aloud to even in 9th grade, and so we make time to read and to read aloud.  Not to be mistaken, they are able to read, but they choose not to.  They recognize hardship in Of Mice and Men, even when they know very little about the Great Depression.  They relate to the themes of loneliness and friendship because of being a teenager, and on given day, anything can happen.  They are reminded of loved ones or even kids or adults in their own community who are/were a little bit like Lennie, hardworking and well- meaning but not able to learn in the same ways, and many times misinterpreted.  They also love George’s character even though gruff, but he looks after Lennie, taking care of him when he cannot take care of himself.

And so after the mice excitement, we arrive at school, and I drop my kids off with the posse which will head outside to the playground.  I’m on my way to my own crossing guard, stop sign, first greeter of the day duty.  Mrs. Smith, our K-12 school’s incredibly awesome librarian known for her knack of helping kids in the many ways that matter, has just reigned in three children from the parking lot who had been dropped off early for their breakfast in our school cafeteria.  One strayed off towards the cars with parents dropping kids when Mrs. Smith (on her way to the library and not morning duty)  lovingly guided him safely over to where we were standing.  He was shivering in the cold.  No jacket.  And Mrs. Smith held his little hands in hers warming him up.  A little fellow in an early grade- no doubt- was completely happy to hold Mrs. Smith’s hands, and she was not going to let him go.  “You are so warm, Mrs. Smith!”  he concluded more than once.  His siblings were not wearing coats either.   Perhaps, it had been a crazy morning, and his parent was just trying to get him to school on time.  Perhaps, he had fought wearing the jacket and being cold is the natural consequence. Perhaps his mom or dad or guardian grandparent was mouse hunting too, and time slipped away as it does most mornings.  Perhaps, his coats were still packed away with the winter stuff.  Or, perhaps, when Mrs. Smith asked if he had a coat, and he said, “No” that meant he really didn’t have a coat at all.



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