(Editor’s Note: A bit of levity for our readers.)
Growing up in a very small, rural community in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains was like a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The kids looked forward to Christmas vacation and the town would gather together to light the town Christmas tree. Santa would arrive on the back of the town fire truck. Yes, it was a good place to grow up. In all of that warm and friendly town, nobody could have imagined the happenings in our home one foggy Christmas Eve.
My older brother had been given the greatest honor of his class…he brought the class pet home over Christmas vacation. No, it wasn’t a turtle or even an exotic iguana. My brother’s class pet was a gopher. This rodent lived in a very large glass jar that was filled with dirt. My mother was less than thrilled, and I really have no idea how my father felt about it. I was 5 and thought it was kind of neat to have a gopher living in our house.
On this particular night my father had gone to bed early and so had I. It was Christmas Eve and I could hardly wait for it to be Christmas. My mother had some last minute things to do, which kept her up most of the night. My brother was supposed to be asleep. As my mother was concentrating on her chores, my brother came out of his bedroom and excitedly wanted Mama to see what he could do with the gopher.
She obliged him and followed him into his bedroom. “I can pet the gopher!” Yes, that’s every mother’s dream… a son who can tame gophers. He proudly stuck his hand into the jar and the not-so-tame gopher bit his finger and wouldn’t let go. My brother reacted by pulling his hand out of the jar, gopher and all. He shook his hand and the gopher let go…then took off running.
Now, the layout of our house needs to be understood in order to appreciate what followed. It was sort of a long box shape with a wall running through the middle. The front door opened into the living room, which went into the dining room, which went into the kitchen.
Then, if you turned left you went into the bathroom, then into my brother’s bedroom and then came a large walkthrough closet. Going through that closet would take you into a very large bedroom which had been partitioned off with my bed near the closet and my parents bed on the other side of the partition. All the doors were usually open, which made a “track” for the gopher to run around as my mother and brother tried to catch him.
Our Christmas tree was decorated and there were lots of presents under it, and the gopher ran to it looking for dirt to dig into. All he found was a shallow Christmas tree stand filled with water. There was splashing and scuffling as the gopher went into the water, then out onto the presents, then back into the water and out again.
Then, he was off again and the very quiet Christmas parade (gopher, brother, mother all in a line) went tiptoeing through the bedroom where my father slept, through the bedroom where I slept, through the closet, through my brother’s room, and on it went around the house. After they circled the house a time or two, they finally split up, surrounded the gopher, and caught him. Back into the jar he went, and my brother didn’t try to pet him again.
My father and I missed the fun of watching the parade, but we did have lots of questions about the soggy Christmas gifts we unwrapped on Christmas morning!