Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Nearly four years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. This week, a milestone in any pet-owning family’s life passes in a whirl of questions and Angry Birds stickers.
Our hamster died this week. Barry, the tiny little hooligan, was feared by our entire household. His Game of Thrones name would have been ‘Breaker of Food Chains’ because he terrified the cat so much. He reigned (peed) over all he encountered and once ate the majority of a Lego piece our kid had dropped in his cage. He was a little diamond.
Our daughter’s comfort toy used to be a white bunny called Barry, so when we saw hamster Barry in the bargain section of a well-known pet store we knew it was fate.
Fate, and the fact our old hamster Sid had recently died and we’d just spent loads on a new cage. Barry came home, a rescue pet who “might not have long left” according to the lady who signed the adoption papers.
Three bastard years later and he was still going strong, until this week. Our daughter will turn four very soon, and has suddenly developed ‘emotion’ and ‘empathy’. Mostly this involves slamming doors and making bold statements such as “Well, I can do anything I want to because YOU are NOT my best friend,” but it also meant that we had some explaining to do about the hamster.
My husband and I had to wait a couple of days to tell her (we work entirely different hours) as we’d agreed to a small service of remembrance to help the child cope. On a sunny Monday afternoon just before I dashed off to work he started digging outside while I reluctantly handed over a lovely Paperchase gift box to serve as a coffin. (Sorry Emma, you’ll just have to have your birthday present in newspaper or something.)
We had recently primed the child that Barry might not have long left by way of talking about our old hamster and showing her where he was buried in the garden. After finding her elbow-deep in soil one morning, we’d shut up about the subject and put it down to too many Stephen King novels while I was pregnant.
“Barry came home, a rescue pet who ‘might not have long left’ according to the lady who signed the adoption papers. Three bastard years later and he was still going strong, until this week.”
We desperately tried to get her attention to deliver the bad news, but solemnity isn’t her forte. “Sweetheart, we have some news,” I offered. “OH MY GOD WE ARE GOING SWIMMING!!!” she replied, sprinting into the house to put on her swimming costume. Five minutes later we were all back in the garden. “We need to tell you something,” her Dad said quietly, as he adjusted the straps on her cozzie. “Barry died yesterday and we need to bury him in the garden next to Sid.” The questions came thick and fast, with no time to respond or deflect.
“Did he die in his cage?”
“Why did he die in his cage?”
“Are we still going swimming?”
“Can I open that present?”
“Why can’t I look in that box?”
“Did you buy Barry a present for dying?”
“Can I still play with him?”
“Can we get a new hamster then?”
“Why am I wearing a swimming costume?”
After fielding most of these we managed a small service for the late Barry. My husband managed to turn his sadness around by treating himself to a new shovel, and the child was back to her normal self within seconds. The little hamster’s coffin went into the earth covered in Angry Birds stickers, for which I’d like to publically apologise.
Sorry Barry, you were better than that, but grief is a helluva drug.803 Views
Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.