One unforgettable afternoon, Sookie, my daughter, burst through the front door, fresh from first grade with a crumpled note from her teacher. The note explained that the class guinea pig needed a permanent home. Whichever student was the first to hand in this permission slip the next morning, signed by their parents, would be the winner! They would be responsible for transporting the big glass tank to their house and taking over the feeding, the cleaning, the everything of Brownie, the (brown) guinea pig. The novice teacher had originally thought that Brownie was a wonderful idea: teach responsibility, kindness, and what else? She couldn’t quite recall anymore, because making sure that the little thing was fed and watered over the weekends was starting to get old. It was time to allow some lucky child the opportunity to acquire a pet. Let their parents handle the smell.
At the dinner table, later that night, Brownie the Stinky Guinea Pig was the main topic of conversation. My husband and I had been deprived; we had each grown up in pet-free households. Indeed, the only animals in our homes had been the occasional mice that made scratchy noises behind the papered walls. You set traps for animals that had the mistaken idea that they could co-habit your house. You didn’t feed and water and love them. You tried to get rid of them. Exterminate them.
Sookie and her brother, James, were so excited at the idea of adopting a guinea pig, they could barely eat dinner. And there was no changing the subject, because one of them would begin wherever the other had left off, reciting their soliloquy on the Positive Points of Pet Ownership. Their father and I, completely worn down, sighed, and agreed to give our permission. At least they weren’t begging for a dog.
The ensuing celebration rivaled any birthday party. “Thank you’s” bounced off the ceiling and ricocheted off the walls. The two children were still squealing like guinea pigs themselves long after the lights had been turned off for bedtime. That was when my husband made the astute point that this was pretty much an empty victory for our daughter, because didn’t the note specify the winner had to be the first to arrive? I stopped and thought about it, and a smile spread across my face. Of course, what were we thinking? We could have been heroes much earlier into the meal because there was no possible way that our little dreamer could ever arrive anyplace on time, let alone be the first. There was a reason that her nickname was “Slow Poke Sookie”. We were safe! Our home could remain a sanctuary to human inhabitants and perhaps the occasional goldfish won at the county fair.
The next day dawned, as bright and sunny as the children’s outlook on life. Sookie gobbled her Life cereal, brushed her teeth, grabbed her lunch bag and took off. She returned just as quickly for a forgotten kiss goodbye and then focused on business at hand. Her footsteps were solid and sure. A small nagging fear began to creep into my mind that she just might achieve her goal of an unprecedented timely arrival at school. Nahhh … this was my little girl, after all. The eighth Dwarf in Snow White’s retinue: Slow Poke. My hope was that she wouldn’t cry too hard from disappointment.
Sookie must have had the wind at her back, because far too quickly, she was standing in front of her classroom door and knocking. We had only witnessed her single speed in life, which was “dawdle”, so it had taken a supreme effort to … be the first to arrive! Brownie was hers! Joy to the World! She was sent to the office so that she could call home and announce her victory. I admit that I was not thrilled to get that call, but I promised to meet my daughter after school to chauffeur Brownie to her new home. I notified my husband that our plan had failed miserably and that we would be welcoming a small rodent into our house. He didn’t mind: he was amazed at this accomplishment, truly impressed by our daughter’s single-mindedness.
That night, at bedtime, the children petted and cuddled their new pet and wished it sweet dreams. I had to remind them to put Brownie back into her container before they fell asleep with the little thing. The two were already hatching plans of a future that involved them establishing a “guinea pig ranch”, complete with guinea pig roundups.
This experience taught my husband and me to never underestimate the determination of our child to reach her goal. We were so proud of Sookie. She would always be a dreamy, little slow poke, but now we knew her capabilities and that she could achieve whatever she wanted in life. But … she would get there at her own pace.
Susan W. Goldstein
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