Max, Lucy, and a Mouse Named Mouse

By Diane Stark

Max, Lucy, and a Mouse Named Mouse

“Mommy be careful!” My three-year-old son, Nathan, exclaimed. “You almost sat on Mouse!”

My mouth dropped open. “There’s a mouse in here?”

He nodded. “Of course. He’s sitting right there.” He pointed at the chair I’d been about to sit in just moments before.

I turned around and looked at the empty chair. “There was a mouse on that chair?”

Nathan looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head. “No, not a mouse. My friend, Mouse.”

Panic had begun to set in. “Nathan, I need to know. Did you see a real mouse in this house?”

“Mommy, my friend Mouse is here to play,” he answered patiently. “Please be nice to him, and please don’t sit on him.”

“OK, so Mouse is a pretend mouse, right?” I clarified, feeling my breathing return to normal.

He sighed. “Yes, but he and I would like some real string cheese for a snack.”

I smiled and retrieved two pieces of string cheese. I opened one and handed it to Nathan. Then I said, “Where would Mouse like me to put his cheese?”

“He said I could have his,” Nathan answered with a grin.

Nathan’s friend Mouse hung around our house off and on for about a year. Sometimes he would talk about Mouse on a daily basis, and other times, weeks would go by without a mention. Nathan was the first of my children to have an imaginary friend, and I enjoyed this inside view into my little boy’s imagination.

Recently, some friends and I were talking about our children’s imaginary friends, and I shared about Nathan and Mouse. “I never did discover why Nathan chose a mouse, rather than some other animal,” I said. “But every time he mentioned Mouse, I had to fight the urge to scream and stand on a chair.”

My sister-in-law, Lori, laughed. “I think it’s funny that the thought of a mouse in your house sends you into a panic, but you keep those squirrels in your house.”

“They’re not squirrels,” I said. “They’re sugar gliders.”

“They look like mice,” she said.

“They aren’t even in the rodent family. They’re marsupials, and their closest relative is the koala bear,” I said.

Lori shrugged. “I still think it’s funny.”

And maybe Lori had a point. Maybe it was silly to freak out about a mouse, but welcome two mice-like creatures into our home.

Maybe.

But if you saw Max and Lucy, you’d understand that it’s not at all the same thing.

We bought Lucy from a kiosk at the mall about two years ago. There was a display for Pocket Pets, and several young men standing around holding these adorable little creatures.

One of the men stretched out his arm and the creature ran down his arm and jumped off, landing on the table about 10 feet away. “Some people think that sugar gliders are flying squirrels because they can jump so far,” he said.

He explained that sugar gliders are native to Australia, and they can live their entire lives without ever touching the ground. They simply glide from tree to tree, using the stretchy skin beneath their arms like little wings.

I watched as the little creature jumped again and thought they seemed like a neat pet. But I didn’t want one.

I watched as the man pulled another sugar glider from the pocket of his hoodie. “Sugar gliders love to snuggle,” he said. “He will sleep in my pocket all day, if I let him. That’s why we call them Pocket Pets.”

“How sweet,” I thought. But I still didn’t want one.

But then I reached out and petted one. It had the softest, silkiest fur I’d ever felt in my life. And that’s when I decided I had to have a sugar glider.

My daughters decided that a girl sugar glider would be more fun than a boy, and they picked out the name Lucy. We took her home in a little pouch with a string attached to it. We were told to take turns wearing the pouch around our necks with Lucy inside. “Sugar gliders bond primarily by smell,” they said. “So you want to keep her close to you as much as possible.”

Once Lucy got used to us, we were able to dispense with the pouch and just let her hang out in our pockets. She especially likes to sit on my older son’s shoulder as he does his homework.

Because sugar gliders are nocturnal, Lucy’s “bedtime” is very similar to my children’s. About nine o’clock every night, Lucy is no longer content to sleep in someone’s pocket. Her natural instincts kick in and she begins jumping all over the house. Once, as I was walking up the stairs, she jumped off of my shoulder and landed on the tile floor eight feet below. Thankfully, she was completely fine, and now, she has a large cage in which to do the majority of her jumping.

Sugar gliders are social animals, and they get lonely easily, so we decided Lucy needed a little brother. We got Max, a roly-poly little guy who is now topping the scales at 12 ounces, which is huge for a sugar glider. (Max came to us neutered, so there will be no baby sugar gliders, even if he and Lucy forget they are supposed to be siblings.)

As I write this story, Max and Lucy are snuggling in the pocket of my hoodie. Periodically, one of them peeks out to see if I have a Cheerio or small piece of fruit for them to eat. Max licks my hand as I run Lucy’s extraordinarily long tail through my fingers. She makes a clicking noise, the sugar glider equivalent of purring. They are sweet and snuggly, and I love them.

We don’t have a dog or a cat. Instead, our family’s pets are two adorable sugar gliders named Max and Lucy.

And occasionally, an invisible mouse named Mouse.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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