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Gross is 144: The day we bought crabs | Jan's Journal

Every day is a gift. The morning, at least the first minute upon waking, is a time for renewal, hope for the future, and anticipation for the day. Anything is possible. But then reality sets in. Deadlines, commitments and people to see: Overwhelming circumstances cloud the dream-infested euphoria of experiencing another sunrise. Dread lives in all of us. The fear of the unknown cuddles our shoulders and makes us shrink in anticipation of the “what-ifs.”

What if, when I hesitantly inch my way into my youngest daughter’s room tomorrow morning, that hermit crab (that we’ve only had for one week) isn’t really molting, and the super disgusting, naked crab is still hunched against the corner of the glass? I shudder at the thought.

Pets are meant to add enrichment to our lives. If they don’t, then there really is no point in taking care of another living creature. Dogs tend to be loving, loyal, always glad to see you, and a lot of work. Cats are finicky, demanding of attention when they want it, and entertaining when gifts of birds, rats, or snakes are left, dead or alive in your house. Rabbits are social creatures preferring to be where you are, especially where there is access to new area rugs and antique furniture legs to chew on. However, I’ve never realized any benefits to having fish, hamsters or hermit crabs.

Take the last one for example. Our youngest daughter begged us to let her buy (at a discount) a neighbor girl’s two hermit crabs from Petco. They came with all the accessories: Tank, bark, food, spray bottle. She cried, pleaded, cajoled, whined and promised she would take care of them. At first I said no. Then, “I’ll think about it.” And finally against my better judgment, “OK, but I don’t like these creepy sea spiders with shells.”

She was ecstatic and excitedly cleared off a spot on her dresser for the tank and began watching them with loving devotion. Possibly three days later, the crushing disappointment sank into her thin, 10-year-old bones with the realization that the crabs do nothing. I resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.” But I reserve the right to address that point later, perhaps in a year or two when I need leverage.

The real kicker in this saga is that I ended up visiting her room daily to confirm that they were still alive, and that yes, they do nothing. “Resentment” is a word to describe what I’m feeling. I resent that I found myself in her room searching the bark in the hermit crabs’ tank for any sign of a shell. I don’t want to care about a hermit crab. I get nothing back from this one-sided relationship. Pinky hides in this hut, and Rainbow burrows into the bark every day. What I have determined by careful analysis is that the life of a hermit crab only consists of three things: They eat, sleep, and leave their cage a mess. But I already have three children. Why do I want two more?

Tonight, one hysterical daughter wailed loudly in anguish for me to come to her room. Alarmed, I ran upstairs to find her babbling incoherently about Pinky.

“He’s out of his shell, I don’t know what’s wrong with him, I think he’s dead and he’s really gross!”

As the responsible adult in this sitcom, I managed to find the courage to look in the tank. Sure enough, the skeletal little crab was huddled in the corner minus his pink shell. All of this observation is taking place over lots of screaming, but I tried to get a hold of myself. Of course the 15-year-old brother comes in to smugly pour fuel on the flame. “Yep, you killed him,” he says with a smile amid thunderous teeth gnashing and sibling goading as he sauntered out.

The two teenagers laughingly bonded over the utter ridiculousness of the situation (especially as it got increasingly louder) as they studied in the dining room. I testily remind them of their own childhood pet debacles, such as an accidentally boiled Beta fish, and a plastic hamster ball rolling into a fired-up, open gas fireplace. I contemplate the sheer magnitude on the gross-scale for what I’m going to find in the morning. The actual word “gross” always elicits fond memories of my dad commenting, “Gross is 144” every time he heard it. I will try to remember that, no matter what the day’s reality brings.

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