One day my mother, who we now call "Grandma," came home from work - yes at 74 she still works three days a week - and smelled a mouse.
When I was growing up in a little house at the edge of a small town, surrounded by corn fields and a farm implement salvage yard, we often had mice and, too horrible to speak about, their larger cousins, in our home. They found any cranny to invade and bear their young. The rats crawled into the walls and scratched at night. We were surrounded and overwhelmed.
Today, better armed, emotionally and financially, when any member of my family smells a rat, we freak. We go into full retreat.
So, Grandma not only smelled the mouse, she saw evidence of it everywhere. On the stove, in a drawer. It was too much.
She threw out all the food in her house and cleaned her refrigerator and kitchen like she was preparing for surgery. The dog now eats outside. My sister and her children stopped by for a visit recently and ended up staying with another relative, "just so we could eat."
She has a plan, though. She goes to Wendy's and buys a baked potato, a chicken sandwich, and chili. From this she can make several meals. She has bought a few TV dinners, but generally frowns upon such sterile fare. She does have a nearby Jewel store and appreciates the bakery and deli. Actually, she seems to be making sort of a game out of the situation. How long can she go without cooking?
Maybe this is some sort of rebellion after having been responsible for feeding, first, her younger siblings and then her four children. And then her ailing husband.
What I do know is this: I can tolerate a mouse in the house, confident that one of the three cats who I share my space with will catch it sooner rather than later. If a rat were to enter my home, however, I think the memories would overtake me. I would leave. My mother's reaction to the mouse does seem extreme, but I do understand where she is coming from!