Last night my son ran into the living room, yelling, "Mom, come quick, Kiwi needs help!"
I panicked, thinking she had blood gushing from an injury or something equally horrible. I ran to their bedroom and paused in the doorway. Kiwi had her nose pressed against the aquarium, then she looked at me with tears filling her eyes.
My heart lurched as a flashback to the death of our hamster, Fredrick, filled my mind, "What's wrong?"
Her lip trembled, "I think Theo's dead. Touch him."
I looked in the bowl, and see he's curled up with his face pressed into the dirt. He's a mossy greenish color, unlike his usual gray. I don't want to touch him with my finger, so I brushed a stick lightly across his back. He flinched.
My son, expressing his usual stoicism and impatience with his sister's sentimentality in the face of possbile tragedy said, “He’s not dead, why are you crying?”
I distracted Kiwi before she could get a grip on her baby brother. Otherwise, the night might've still ended with blood gushing.
She started researching toad illnesses on the internet, but the more she searched the more frustrated she became. “There’s nothing here,” she cried, slamming her fist onto the desk. “What do we do?”
As the mom, I’m supposed to have an answer.
But, I didn’t.
I had a horrible vision of us waking up the next morning with a death to deal with before school. Not cool, especially since the kids are so sensitive. Kiwi was already struggling to stay strong and not fall apart.
“Maybe he’s dehydrated,” Kiwi said. She filled up a bowl with water, then squeezed a few drops onto his back.
Then we went to bed.
Before I left for work this morning, I asked by husband to check on the toad before kids woke up. I wanted him to dispose to the tiny body if Theo had passed in the night. I felt horrible putting such a chore on him, but I'd dealt with the burial arrangements for Fredrick last year. Then I went to work.
I got a phone call from Kiwi an hour later. “Hi Mom,” Kiwi said, voice low.
“What’s going on?” Stupid question, I already knew the answer.
“It’s about Theo,” she paused, and took a breath.
I wait for the bad news.
“He’s fine. He’s sitting in the bowl of water.”
Yes, I cried at the news that he was okay. I had to accept my softy status a long time ago. Greeting cards, commercials—especially the one where the little boy thinks the soldier is Santa Claus gets me every time.