Prayer for a Dead Hamster

Some of the prayers in Mommy Prayers are 100% autobiographical, like Prayer before the Grocery Store or Prayer for My Grandmother; some are everymom-type prayers (Prayer for My Jeans, Prayer for No Sex Tonight) and some are a mishmash of stuff from the inside of my brain.

Prayer for the Dead Hamster is one of those. I like to think of it as an ode to all the small dead mammals I’ve known in my lifetime, and there’ve been a few, believe me:

1) I used to babysit for a family who had four kids and a hamster. When the hamster died, the mom put a potato in the cage as a replacement. My brothers and I laughed ourselves sick about how stupid we thought that was, but now I realize that mother was brilliant. Hamsters are 100% nocturnal, and during the day they’re about as much fun as a potato. Trust me on this point.

2) Our own hamster, Sammy, lived a long and productive life (well, three years) in a cage that we kept in the corner of our kitchen, which some people found kind of disgusting but I found kind of companionable all the way around. It was winter when we found him dead, and the ground was frozen stiff, but my son, weeping copiously, adamantly vetoed the “burial at sea” plan I was promoting.

Instead, we put the little guy in a fancy jewelry box with nice tissue paper and put it on the highest shelf in our unheated garage, where he promptly became double-stiff, once from rigor mortis and a second time from the cold. The plan was, we’d bury him properly in the spring.

I am very ashamed to tell you this, but a bunch of springs have come and gone, and that box is still on that shelf. BAD MOM.

3) When he was little, my youngest brother wanted a dog more than any other thing in the entire world. We had a cat (a mean one), snakes, polliwogs, fish, salamanders, but never a dog. When he cried at the table one day, “You can’t kiss a fish on the lips!” my mother caved and got him a hamster (not that you should kiss a hamster, but at least it’s a mammal).

Flash forward several years – my bro is getting ready to leave in a few days for his first ever stint at sleepaway camp, when someone notices Hammy has chosen that particular moment to kick the bucket. He’s curled up in his usual ball, but the ball ain’t moving. My mom, sensing both that my brother will use any excuse to bail out of camp but also that, as a 12-year-old, he’ll forget to say goodbye, tells the rest of us to do nothing – don’t move Hammy, don’t say anything.

We lived through 36 hot sticky summer hours on pins and needles with a decaying rodent in the house, and the camp van was literally not done backing out of the driveway before my mom had marched the rest of us out back for what had to be the world’s quickest funeral, a classy “dump and run” type of affair.

This story at least has a happy ending, because years and years later my little bro finally did get a dog, just last month.  Here’s Wiley, isn’t he cute?


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4 Responses to “Prayer for a Dead Hamster”

  1. Cindy H Says:

    Hey – wasn’t that mean cat the one who did wallpaper inspection? 🙂 Congrats on the upcoming book!

    • Tracy Mayor Says:

      Hey! Yes, same cat! You’re good to remember that poor beast…

      Send me an email so we can connect; I’d love to know where you are and what you’re up to. tracy dot mayor at gmail dot com.

  2. Jessica Y Says:

    Wow…this is just what I needed…the family hamster just died tonight and I was dreading morning when my son figures out something’s amiss….As sad and upset as I was….I’ve never laughed so hard. Thank you for the relief….I just dont think a potato will work…it’s dwarf hamster.

  3. Tracy Mayor Says:

    Hey, Jessica, thank for the comment and hope your son took the news okay. I have to say, sometimes my kids have recovered quicker than their mother has.

    If you’re ready to venture into the small furry pet market again, I highly recommend a pair of white mice. Unlike hamsters, they’re not nocturnal, so they’re actually up and about during the day, and they’re really fun to watch.

    Just make sure you get two girls. The males will fight, and a male-female pair, well, we all know what happens *then*…

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