A Moose In The Hoose!
This is an excerpt from my book, “Don’t Look Now...” which is about getting through tough times, using advice I’ve been given over the years—whether from friends, family, famous folks or even scrawls on bathroom walls (ya never know where good advice will appear!). This kinda gives a snapshot of our family during my childhood... and the pic is my Auntie Rose & Uncle Mal with yours truly in the sailor dress.
Don’t Look Now...
Chapter: There’s a Moose in the Hoose
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...”
I already talked about using laughter to get through trying times, but laughter for laughter’s sake—laughing just to laugh at an amusing situation, provides not only entertainment, but its own very special kind of release we all need sometimes.
The first childhood image that springs to mind when I think of Auntie Rose is tissue paper; not the kind for your nose, but the stuff for wrapping presents. Every year around my birthday a large box would arrive from New York, filled with packages of all shapes and size—a fair number of them loosely wrapped in white and colored crinkly tissue paper. Most would have gift tags attached, a few were in boxes, and some were “mystery” packages (no tags)—kind of an up for grabs or communal present. As we emptied the large box we would squeeze the packages and comment: “Feels like a sweater,” “Bet it’s slippers,” etc.
The BEST was when Auntie Rose included one of her paintings. She did great flower and nature oil paintings, and their infrequent arrivals were the finest presents of all, for they were a part of her heart. I treasure her paintings—they make me feel like a little bit of her is still here.
Auntie Rose was actually my father’s aunt, but “Great Aunt Rose” just didn’t fit her. It was “Auntie Rose” and “Uncle Mal” (her husband) to all of us. The few times they were able to visit from New York were wonderful, warm, and full of laughter. Their most memorable visit involved a poor, hungry, unsuspecting mouse...
Living as we did in one of the first sets of tract homes in Anaheim, we were surrounded by orange groves. In addition, one of our next-door neighbors had ivy all over the place—the perfect breeding place for all sorts of critters, including mice and icky black widow spiders (Mama’s spider-in-the-shower encounter involved nekkidity, so the mouse story’ll hafta do).
During one of Auntie Rose and Uncle Mal’s visits, I had spotted a teensy, tiny mouse scurrying from under my bed and across the hall into my parents’ room.
Ours was a 1950s, one-story, California kind of home. There was a large living room at its center, with a long hallway that led to all the bedrooms (mine was at the end of the hall, directly across from my parents’ room; my sister Geri’s was next to mine). In the living room was a large, heavy couch/hideabed, flanked at each end by small tables. The table nearest the hallway was by a vent for the heater, and a place coveted by all during cold snaps (the family would sometimes find me curled up under it if I had sleepwalked during the night and was able to oust my dad’s dog).
So back to the mouse... No one believed I had seen it. I was quite young, and in their adult eyes, an unreliable source of information.
“Au contraire, mon frere”—I’d seen it all right, a fact soon vindicated. Mama was seated on the floor near the end table by the hallway, Dad’s dog, Jo-Jo, was under the table (close to the heater vent), Geri and Daddy on the couch, Auntie Rose and Uncle Mal in arm chairs. I was in bed, supposedly asleep, but actually under the covers with a flashlight reading “Little Women”.
A movement across the hall caught my eye as I came up for air at one point and there it was—the small, trembling mouse tried to sneak back into my room, but I shooed it away with my book. I watched it go down the hallway and skitter behind the couch. Mama saw movement from the corner of her eye and calmly said, “I think I just saw Gael’s imaginary mouse go behind the couch.”
Jo-Jo’s ears perked up and everyone jumped from their respective seats to begin “the hunt”. The poor mouse must have been terrified as the thundering humans and dog scurried to and fro. It was like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie, with shades of the Keystone Cops tossed in.
I sneaked down the hall and listened to the circus unfolding, peeking out every so often at the mayhem.
And quite a to-do it was...
Daddy had thrown the cushions off the couch and was in the process of unfolding the hideabed to see if the mouse had run under there (it had). Geri squealed as the mouse, disturbed by the activity, scampered from its former hiding place and over her foot, then under Auntie Rose’s chair which had been hurriedly vacated only seconds before.
Auntie Rose let out a loud, “EEK!” (just like in the cartoons and comics) and ran across the room toward Mama who was leaning against the hall doorway, surveying the carnival with amusement.
Dad had a rolled up “Sporting News” in his hand by this time, and was trailing the mouse in a hunter’s stance.
Uncle Mal had just said, “I don’t know why you girls are so upset. After all, it’s just one tiny mouse”, when the offending rodent did a somersault over his feet. With the grace a member of the Bolshoi’s corps de ballet would have envied, Uncle Mal did a perfect plié, leaped in the air and landed with a flourish on the seat of one of the arm chairs.
Mama burst out laughing at the picture in front of her and Daddy glared. This was serious business for him. His territory had been invaded, even if it was only by an undernourished mouse.
Mama beat a hasty retreat into the kitchen to give the hunter room, and to find some suitable weaponry to capture the elusive critter. Uncle Mal suggested a colander in which to trap it, so Mama grabbed one, along with a broom. The idea was that the broom would be the hockey stick and the colander the net—with the poor, innocent mouse given the dubious honor of being the hockey puck. This was in theory, of course. It didn’t quite work out that way.
By the time Mama returned to the living room, the hideabed had been fully unfolded and Geri had jumped onto it. Daddy had attempted (unsuccessfully) to coerce her in to getting our big monster vacuum out of the closet, but she was rooted so firmly to her spot on higher ground that moss had begun to grow on her north side. Mama, laden with her hardware, passed off the colander to Auntie Rose, who then took her position at one end of the couch, with Mama wielding the broom at the other end.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
Daddy was still calling for the vacuum to suck the mouse up its aluminum piping (tells you how small the thing was, doesn’t it?). Mama was ignoring him, hoping they could trap the mouse and release it to the outdoors without any bloodshed.
So here’s the tableau: Auntie Rose in a crouch, with the colander resting like a tennis racket in her hands; Daddy, grim-faced, with his rolled up “Sporting News” ready to whack anything that moved; my sister, now standing on top of the outstretched sofa bed; Uncle Mal with a “Life” magazine held like a shovel; all topped off with my mother brandishing the broom like a baseball bat.
Looking around her, Mama lost it. She started laughing, saying, “Look at us! All of us against one little mouse, and so far, the mouse is winning!”
Watching from the hallway, I stifled a giggle, and saw the mouse skitter behind the couch again.
So did everyone else, and more mayhem ensued:
Daddy sprang into action, barking orders to which no one listened; Mama attempted to sweep the mouse into Auntie Rose’s waiting colander but missed; Uncle Mal tried to scoop the critter up with the magazine to no avail; and Geri remained on her perch atop the hideabed, directing traffic. Mama was doubling over because she was laughing so hard, totally ineffectual by this time, and Daddy was proceeding with his slow burn as the mouse kept evading capture.
Mama’s laughter had become too infectious to ignore, and Auntie Rose started tittering. Uncle Mal’s hearty guffaws added to the hilarity, and Geri finally moved from her spot, only to collapse on the outstretched hideabed. Mama and Auntie Rose soon followed suit, and Uncle Mal fell back on one of the armchairs. I sneaked down the hall into my room—and was giggling, safely back in bed, under my covers.
The only one not amused by the proceedings was Daddy, who slammed out the front door into the garage, vowing to find a mousetrap to finish off the little bugger.
The only sad note to it all was that he was successful. In the middle of the night after Daddy set the traps, I awoke to a loud “snap” and the pitiful squeal of a small mouse destined to go on to “Mousie Heaven”—or its next life, depending on your point of view.
Daddy didn’t get what was so funny because he was too busy being upset, missing the wonderful humor in the silliness and absurdity of it all. He never failed to get a little irritable when the story was related, so we avoided telling the tale in his presence.
Instead of letting go and having fun, he seemed to take the whole thing personally—as if that one silly mouse was an insult to his very existence and Italian “manly man” sensibilities.
If he had only laughed along with the rest of us, he would have discovered something he could have really used during the rest of his short life—the precious commodity of utter abandon—and the light, sweet (albeit temporary) exhaustion when all cares are lifted, and your world is nothing short of perfect innocence.
Those are the times where laughter really is the best medicine of all—times when the “merry heart” can help us put aside everything but the joy of laughter for no better reason than to laugh.
© 1994-2019 Gael MacGregor
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/naavEdy7IPM
Gael MacGregor is a Los Angeles-based musician, singer/songwriter, music supervisor, author and advocate for size acceptance and strong intellectual property rights for all content creators.