My mother planned a surprise party for my eighth birthday. I vividly remember coming home from school and my mother acting weird. She asked me to get my laundry from my bedroom closet. I opened the door and out screamed ten or so of my closest friends. I remember feeling very overwhelmed and needing to lie down.
A few minutes later they insisted on giving me my birthday present: a hamster. My mother gasped. We are not a family that enjoyed rodents.
Apparently my friends had decided to pool their money to buy me a pet. They had all gone to the pet store and decided that they should buy me a hamster. Before the clerk would sell it to them, they were told to call my mother and get the okay. They called her. She said no. They did it anyway.
After the standard birthday meal of boiled hot dogs, potato chips and chocolate cake, all my friends wanted to do was cuddle the hamster. They all laughed when the hamster pooped in their hand, and raced from corner to corner. They all offered their name suggestions, but I knew he wouldn’t be staying. I sat perched on the edge of the couch, disgusted, with my legs tucked up under me.
When the girls left, mom grabbed the hamster cage and we headed for the car. We went straight to the pet store and mom explained the “situation”. The clerk was sympathetic and offered an exchange, as there were “no refunds”. My mother reluctantly agreed to it and I looked around the store for a suitable replacement.
I saw two turtles, each about the size of a side plate, stalled in the small aquarium tank. I gazed at the turtles and then tapped on the glass. The clerk told me that they hate that. I wondered how she knew.
My mom suggested a turtle as they require little maintenance, and zero walks. The clerk fished one of the turtles out and put it in a small box. It scratched the sides of the box with his claws as I carried it out to the car.
On the way home I named him Keanu. I had just seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and was quite impressed by Keanu Reeves. He most certainly warranted having a pet named after him. And so it was.
My dad bought Keanu a kiddie pool (green, and in the shape of a turtle) and that is where he lived. I would visit him occasionally, to feed him his pellets and look at him. He wasn’t much fun to play with, but the neighbour kids were sure impressed.
To be continued…