It wasn’t the first time, but it hadn’t happened for years.
Because they’re cute (along the lines of hamsters and gerbils), I’m not afraid of or disgusted by the mice themselves.
But I cannot tolerate their droppings or the idea of them running across clean towels, counters, and anything else ruining good hygiene.
Also, because the father mouse comes to check out a place before bringing his family, any signs of a mouse (or even worse, the actual mouse itself), means you’re not dealing with one mouse, but five or more (the father, his wife, and kids).
(And if you see two or three mice, you’re actually dealing with MANY more.)
Singing the Rodents' Songs
Sara Yoheved Rigler’s famous saga with a rat came to mind.
My Rat's Tale – https://aish.com/48909007/
SPOILER ALERT (IF YOU DIDN'T READ THE ARTICLE YET)!
Rav Scheinberger advised her to go according to the song of the rat in Perek Shirah (which indicates the need to increase gratitude):
חֻלְדָּה אוֹמֶרֶת. כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ הַלְלוּיָהּ. (תהילים קנ ו)
The Rat says: Every soul shall praise God — Hallelukah! (Tehillim 150:6)
So I looked up the song of the mouse:
עַכְבָּר אוֹמֵר. וְאַתָּה צַדִּיק עַל כׇּל־הַבָּא עָלַי כִּי־אֱמֶת עָשִׂיתָ וַאֲנִי הִרְשָֽׁעְתִּי׃ (נחמיה ט לג)
The Mouse says: And You are Just about everything that has come upon us because You have performed truth and we have been wicked.
And I waited expectantly for the nisayon to end.
A Particularly Crafty Intruder
So I taped the hole around the funnel with silver duct tape.
But that night, I heard the funnel rustling, and discovered holes bitten into the papery funnel, which enable the mouse to bypass the taped-up hole in the screen.
So duct tape went on to those holes too.
But now we feared the mouse was trapped IN the house.
I continued to do what I could according to the Song of the Mouse.
An Urban Horror Comes to Life
That's a phrase you never think you'll hear in real life.
It's also not something I want to hear first thing in the morning. Or anytime at all. Ever.
After a quick netilas yadayim, our then-six-year-old and I came to look.
There it was, with its cute hamster-like face, its black eyes bulging as it twitched to look at each of us in hopeful desperation.
I was surprised to see that, rather than ducking away from us in fear, he seemed to view us like the main character viewed potential mommies in the book Are You My Mother?
Are you my salvation? he seemed to ask as he looked at each of us in eager hope.
(In case you’re wondering, it seems he entered via the slightly open bathroom window, which stands near the mouse’s usual entry point next to the dryer funnel hose.)
At this point, you need to know my husband holds very strongly by the Arizal’s injunction against killing living creatures, no matter how pesky or repellent.
(Being not the epitome of an ishah kasherah/a kosher wife, I totally ignore my husband's injunction when dealing with cockroaches or spiders. And I've killed scorpions twice — one as big as my fist.)
So hubby did his usual thing where he spreads his arms out as if to block a stampede and proclaimed, “No one kill it!”
(As if either my young son or I had the wherewithal or the desire to kill a small mammal.)
When we all exited, my husband again issued his usual proclamation in these situations: “We will not kill it! The Arizal says not to kill." He paused for emphasis. "We will take it outside.”
(This is how these situations always go with him. I respect him for this position, BTW, even if I cannot always abide by it.)
Taking the mouse outside, of course, demanded the use of today’s much-envied “male privilege”—which includes the great “privilege” of dealing with rodents in toilet bowls before Shacharis AND breakfast. In pajamas and slippers.
After all, that’s certainly not a job for women! (Ha!)
But how on earth...?
We didn’t need to wonder long about how our Arizal-devotee intended to extract the mouse.
He asked for any ladle and a container I would never need again. Ever.
He found the container, I found a broken milchig pasta ladle, and we were all set for my husband to carry out his lofty male privilege.
I cringed in a corner of the hallway in case anything went wrong, but our son stood right next to his father to watch the proceedings (because this is a really awesome way to start the day if you're a 6-year-old boy...ever notice how events found stressful by adults tend to be experienced by children as supreme joy & excitement?)
As my husband bravely exited with the mouse in the container & holding the lid down with the tail flapping out, I noticed again how it looked much larger than a normal mouse.
Also, its tail looked longer and thicker than usual for a mouse.
But to paraphrase a famous saying: Cognitive dissonance is bliss.
For some reason, I was ready to deal with a mouse…but not a rat.
Anyway, my husband strode out of our apartment with great purpose and down the stairs to the back entrance of our building, which leads to the great outdoors, not far from open nature.
He deposited the rat a good distance from our building and we all hoped that was the end of it—especially since I was going by the Song of the Mouse.
Surely, the segulah would finally work!
Time to Change Direction – Both Spiritually & Practically
We need poison or traps as practical hishtadlut, I decided. We had traps left over from years ago.
Then the 6-year-old called out from the mamad (bomb shelter room), which also serves as a bedroom, “Here’s the mouse on the window!”
I rushed to see where he pointed and saw a large dark rodent stretched across the screen of an open bedroom window.
Cringing & squealing all the way (where is male privilege when you need it most?), I raced toward the window and slammed it shut, twisting the handle to lock it.
Together, my young son and I gazed at the shadowy figure through the frosted window.
Gosh, that really is such big mouse! I thought to myself.
Just then, our 22-year-old arrived home from yeshivah.
We showed him the shadowy figure still hanging on to the screen outside the frosted window.
"Look at the mouse!" we told him.
This son looked amused as he gazed at, then looked at me with a how-can-I-break-this-to-you smile and said, “That’s not a mouse.”
“Oh," I said. "I was afraid of that.”
“But it’s okay,” he reassured me. “I know how to take care of it.”
He likes to invent things and here was the opportunity to create a tzaar-baalei-chayim-free trap—a contraption to kill the rodent as painlessly & quickly as possible, promising to clean up the results himself (meaning, no squeamish clean-up for anyone lacking male privilege—because dealing with really gross clean-up is also part of male privilege).
While our older son worked away, the rat found a place to hide between the iron sliding door in the window frame (meant to protect inhabitants from flying shrapnel, but used by the rat as his own refuge) and the screen.
I felt grateful for the currently low risk of incoming missiles because I had no idea how we’d close the sliding iron door with a robust rat sitting in the way.
Finally, our son set up the trap on the ledge (protected by the window bars from falling to our neighbor’s yard below), included some luscious rat-bait, while the rat watched him from his hideout.
My son closed the window, I gave everyone stern instructions to keep the window closed no matter what, and then we waited.
I realized I'd functioned in Little-Red-Riding-Hood-mode, seeing all the signs of a wolf, but insisting that it was still Granny, just looking a little "off."
(Like, "Ooh, mouse! What a big tail you have! And what a large long body you have, mouse!")
It ended up being the catalyst I needed to put my heart into gratitude-mode.
During that time, I switched from confessing my sins to thanking Hashem for all sorts of things, both the good and the bad, as per the Song of the Rat.
Meanwhile, our older sons kept checking to see whether the rat was there.
We could see the shadow of the trap through the frosted glass. It remained intact with no sign of being tampered with.
Bending his head out the window, a teenage son said, “Hey, there’s an air-conditioning unit sticking out here below the window.”
Rats are both smart and agile enough to leap on to a unit below, then make their way to the ground.
Was it even the same rat?
We felt sure it was.
After all, he received such a warm welcome (and rescue) in our home. Why not return to such a compassionate family?
Hoping the rat would not return, we went on with life and I kept an eye out for signs of a rat.
They weren’t long in coming.
The Happy End (for us, not the rat)
The folksy rat-repellents of infusing the area with coffee grounds, cinnamon, eucalyptus oil, etc., did not repel our determined rat.
Finally, I really intensified my expressions of gratitude to Hashem, including thanking Him for this ratty nisayon because it really gave me the kick I needed out of a stuck place, helping me appreciate what I had in life.
I also went out and bought green chunks of rat poison.
Placing the chunks in his favorite hiding places (behind the oven and behind the little kitchen table in the corner), plus another outside his favorite entry point (the opening of the dryer funnel), I continued to thank Hashem for the good & for what I perceived as bad.
That night, I heard scrambling outside the screen where the dryer funnel stuck out.
Peeking over to see, the green block had disappeared.
A teenage son checked the area below with a flashlight.
No sign of the little green chunk.
I pictured the rat arriving home with the little green chunk: “Hey, Doris! Kids! Look what Daddy’s brought home for dinner!”
Since then, no evidence of any rodents have appeared.
The little green blocks of poison behind the oven and the kitchen table remain untouched.
The newfound gratitude also opened up bracha in other areas, like a child on shidduchim got engaged not long after, and other issues that felt "stuck" until then.
Thanks yet again, Hashem!