How does that Randy Travis song go? Bones, I'm digging up bones, exhuming things better left alone . . . Something like that.
My six year old son walked in the kitchen yesterday afternoon with the expired hermit crab we funeralized before school yesterday morning. "Can I keep Stripe's shell to remember him by?"
I fixed my eyes on his small hands, caked with black dirt, clutching the smelly remains of his pet.
"Eww," I gasped. "Honey, you've got to go put that thing back in the ground. It's dead."
My little boy stooped his shoulders in grief and obediently exited out the back door, still affectionately embracing the hermit crab corpse. I assumed, or maybe simply hoped, he planned to deposit it back in its shallow grave.
About 30 minutes later, however, he found me in the laundry room folding clothes. His hands, even filthier this time, suspiciously concealed something.
"Where's Stripe?" I cautiously queried.
When he opened his fingers to reveal the hermit crab shell resting on his palm, I caught a whiff of an offensive odor. "I buried one part of him," he sadly confided.
I hated to ask, but I had to, "And where are the other parts?"
Gently, the mourning boy picked up the shell and held the opening close to my contorted face. "I pulled on his body, but he broke. I couldn't get the rest of him out. I even tried using a stick. Can you help me?"
My stomach turned as I pondered what to do next. Nothing I've read thus far in volumes I, II, & III of Raising Children the Easy Way: A Step by Step Guide addresses situations of this nature. So I resorted to the tactic I know best: "Ask your father when he gets home."
Out went the child, cloaked in an aroma cloud and quietly reassuring his partial pet, to wait on the steps for his daddy.
Later, my husband came staggering up the stairs, looking like he had finished off a quart of sour milk, and collapsed on the bed. "You won't believe what I just had to do," he said.
Knowing that I actually would, I pressed my hands over my ears and yelled, "Don't tell me. Don't tell me. Don't tell me," but not before I heard something about screwdrivers, and popping and oozing.
"You set me up, didn't you? You know exactly what I did," he accused.
I gave him a sheepish sideways glance, said, "Isn't it nice to be someone's hero?" and went away to continue with the laundry. Nevertheless, I didn't escape further involvement with the pet cemetery proceedings.
Later that night, I found myself slipping a wreaking hermit crab shell into a Ziploc bag, into which I sprayed a thick mist of Lysol, so that my child could sleep with memories of Stripe under his pillow.
Today, my son came downstairs from his room and announced, "I know why Stripe died."
"Why?" I asked, fully expecting him to tell me something innocent and spiritual like God needed a hermit crab angel or sandy beaches in heaven.
Holding out his left hand, he opened his sweaty fingers, releasing a poof of stale death into the air, "Because his claw fell off."
Ultimately, he declares he did it all for love. But I think he did it out of morbid curiosity.