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Lie to a gentle boy?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

He’s such a gentle boy, a kindred spirit of butterflies and anoles. Noisy at times, sure, but not one to back down from a challenge like scaling a fence and dropping on the other side. He’s 6 1/2 .

When he and his Mom and older brother were here around the 4th of  last July, he noticed the Beatrix Potter figurine on the coffee table. We bought it in Windermere, England, years ago, simply because we liked it.

The 3” x 5” sculpture is of Timmy Willy, “a little country mouse who went to town by mistake in a [vegetable] hamper,” according to his creator’s book, The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, in which his name is spelled “Timmy Willie.”

The wee fellow in my figurine is lolling in a nest of emptied green pea pods, sound asleep. Tiny paws fold over just so on his chest and tummy, and one can surmise – correctly – that he had eaten a bellyful of peas before beginning his nap. He looks so perfectly at ease that you struggle with the urge to touch his bulging belly.

The aforementioned boy had to know it was only a ceramic souvenir, but he went along with my hushed voice and whispered, “He’s sleeping.”
“Look,” I said. “His tail looks like a question mark. What do you think he might be dreaming of?”

His grandparents (that would be us) had just survived an infestation of mice that took place during our 10-week cruise/German visit last spring, so they were not so enamored of mice in the house. They think the mice are cute and all that, but should stay in their place outside.

I guess it was inevitable. Grandpa came in from the garage and said, “We’ve got another mouse.” He was carrying a piece of  sticky cardboard promoted as being more humane than a spring-driven mousetrap.

“Is he alive, Grandpa?” “Nahh,” says Dave, who was heading out through the porch door, looking for a trowel to separate light brown fur from the sticky trap.
“Yes, he IS still alive!” crowed U.J. “I saw him MOVE,” and indeed he had. The darned critter, writhing in a last-ditch effort to escape, actually struck a twisted position not unlike that of the sleeping Timmy Willie.

U.J. started toward Grandpa. “Don’t let him follow me,” Dave warned. I had just enough hold on the boy’s arm to keep him from what he thought had become a rescue mission.

Then, “What’s Grandpa going to do with him?” said the boy, blue eyes threatening to spill.

And before I could answer, he stopped in his tracks, still gripping my hand, and let one sound come out of his rounded lips: “Oh.”

I know we’re not supposed to tell untruths, especially to children, but honestly, what would you do?

“I think Grandpa is going to give him a good talking-to so he won’t ever come back and get trapped again,” I said. The hand relaxed and slipped out of mine. I could sense he had an answer he could live with, and so did I.

It’s all about trust. I don’t want to be accused of being the grandparent whose grandbaby winds up on a psychiatrist’s couch 30 years from now. But which is worse, a gentle fib which could actually be the truth, or inflicting on him the pain of seeing a little animal destroyed? (See, I can’t even say “being killed.”)

 No one said grandparenthood was going to be easy.

sallies@juno.com

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