...In my experience, it is best to not use the phrase: "I will never" when describing what you will not do. For example, whenever I say "I will never be a holiday person," a miracle happens, such as receiving an Amazon giftcard, or a relative I dislike falls ill just enough to cancel holiday plans. "I'm so sorry," I'll say, while simultaneously searching Netflix for Dr. Who reruns, wrapping myself up in the guilty happiness of a duvet, "So sorry to hear that, Peg."
Along with holiday nonchalance, I've also been known to say that "I will never be a pet person," but that sort of logic recently landed me over two hours away from home this week, taking a test to own a hedgehog, and scratching my head over short-answer questions such as: "How should one regard the 'hedgie scream of death'?"
My search for a pet began in the nineties. A time for me when apparently it was not acceptable, as a young girl of seven, to bring a garden snake into the house, and let it live under my bed.
"But I'll feed it!"
"It'll feed on you if the thing gets any bigger!"
Many, many years later, a hedgehog seemed like the perfect alternative. Quills instead of strikes to the face are bit more tame. And I need tame these days.
...When done with the hedgehog test, I spent some time weighing my adult-life decisions while walking around the heated shed where the hedgehogs were raised and bred on this Illinois farm. It was about this time I cursed my friend for about the twentieth time for not coming with me. There were plastic bins lining the walls of the shed, long and spacious, which were assuredly good homes awaiting newly born hedgehogs. But something about the tubs spelled out every Dateline episode I had ever seen. They were very spacious bins, after all. Not to mention the rolls of duct tape, and cable ties cast aside on a table. I was just waiting for the mediocre synthesizer music with the deep-throat narration to whisper: "An adult, lured with the promise of a hedgehog, went off to an isolated town on the morning of..."
"Sorry, Lyne's out," the breeder sighed, glancing up at me from my test, and consequently, drawing my attention. "She's the owner and usually does all of this. But she's a vet, you know. Always on call."
"I can imagine," I said.
"Just the usual, though," she said, marking up the test, and putting it in a folder, "just a cow having trouble giving birth is all."
"Yup, the usual," she yawned."Now, let's pick out your hedgehog."
As the image of moaning cows flooded my head, I was not only a twenty-something year old, but a twenty-something year old who was a "certified" hedgehog owner.
I picked out a hedgehog that was pretty docile. It let me immediately pick it up, and it beelined for the warmth of my shirt to take a nap. It's methodical in its eating, sleeping, and waking times, and I realized I've just picked out a version of myself to live with, but smaller, and add 5,000 spiny quills. Given that fact, it sits around a lot, so I am reading even more than usual when I take him out.
So, as a thank you for listening to a pet story, here are some suggested materials for the non-typical human, in their pursuit to make it through the holidays (possibly with their hedgehog) in one piece:
1. "The Santaland Diaries," A short story by David Sedaris, which can be found in the collection of essays, Holidays on Ice.
"The Santaland Diaries" recounts a 33 year old man's unemployment around the holidays, and eventual job as an elf at Macy's. It's dark, humorous, and very hilarious. A Christmas classic for me, every year.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas, by Tim Burton
This movie never gets old for me. Or understandable.
3. Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
For any teen feeling alone, or the Holiday Blues. Or a bit of both.
4. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, by John Updike
Illustrated by Edward Gorey
There's nothing like Edward Gorey's morbid drawings to get you in the perfect, cheery mood.
5. A Christmas Story, Starring Peter Billingsley
This is probably the best Christmas movie ever. My favorite scene being Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. If you haven't seen this film, like my family, you really better do so.