A Thin Veneer of Maturity

It seems to be a truism amongst my friends that we never really feel like adults. I mean, most of us are 50 or older and still keep hoping someone more adult than we will turn up to handle stuff. Alas, we’re it. I keep wondering if our parents’ generation, the ones who managed to look like they had it together and were never taken unawares, whose yards were raked and trash was curbed and bills were paid and cars were gassed, whose kids studied and ate meals together at regular intervals and made Saturday morning task lists and crossed every entry off by Sunday night, felt the same way. As if they were just tall children pretending really hard to be grown-ups and secretly wishing that someone else would do it instead?

So, last Saturday, my husband, our housemate (the homeowner) and I are busy doing our tasks. We have cleaned and mopped and organized and shopped and generally gotten stuff done. Judy (the homeowner) and I are down in the basement adding water softening salts to the system. We are screwing things and unscrewing things and bleeding pipes and washing out filters and generally adulting the shit out of things when it all goes to hell in the wag of a Doberman’s tail.

The house Dobie is poking around the other end of the basement and starts pawing and whining at a pile of terra cotta pots taken in for the winter (as responsible adults do). We laugh at the silly dog who is probably chasing an errant cricket but we humor her and start moving pots so that she can investigate more closely. To our surprise, she turns up a mouse in an ancient sticky trap.

Judy bought the house well over a year ago and has never put down sticky traps (and never would). In fact, she never knew there might be a mouse possibility. So that is one ancient dead mouse in an old sticky trap and part of each of us wants to whine “Ewww!” and get someone else to deal with it. However, we are adults and we have been competently adulting all morning, so we hitch up our big girl jeans and Judy picks up the trap while I grab the Dobie’s collar to prevent her making herself sick on mummified mouse and nasty old sticky trap. We nod sadly over the dead mouse and decide to put it in the garbage can in the garage when it moves. I can’t exactly describe or explain what happens next.

Suddenly, two adult women, each over 50 and 5 foot 5 inches, are staring in horror at a 3 inch mouse stuck to a piece of cardboard and breathing its last and screeching like 12 year old girls. The Doberman breaks my hold and starts leaping at the trap, barking and growling, so Judy holds it over her head and tries to keep the dog away from it by holding it over her head and jumping up and down. I keep trying to grab the dog while simultaneously refusing to accept delivery of a not-dead-yet mouse and not pee my pants. This live action tableau goes on for a while complete with soundtrack from Der Valkyrie.

Eventually, we get a grip on ourselves and the dog and realize that the poor little thing is suffering and that, as caring and mature adults and animal lovers, we ought to put it out of its misery. But how? We look frantically around the basement and Judy comes up with a solution: a pair of branch loppers. I go back to screaming.

Fortunately, by this time, my husband has decided to come down and see what the hell is going on. He takes one look at the brandished mouse in its trap, the loppers being waved about, the barking dog, the gibbering wife and sighs, “Again?” Then he, apparently the only one adult enough, takes the trap, courteously refuses the loppers and disappears outside to the wood pile.

Apparently, no matter how old I get, the veneer of adulthood is only skin deep. No matter how early I have paid my taxes, the gray hairs, the competent plumbing skills, all it takes is one semi-expired mouse to undo it all.