Wednesday, August 10, 2011

gerbils and helium

when i was a junior in high school, my whole family (consisting of 2 parents, 2 teenagers and 2 toddlers) took a month long drive from our house in ny, all the way out to california, down the coast, back across the country and up the east coast. we stayed in a different motel 6 almost every night and spent most of our daylight hours on the road. it was a wonderful trip and we got a chance to learn a lot about our great big country while traveling fairly cheap.

while we were gone, our pets were left with various friends around town, but when we returned, we discovered that one of our gerbils hadn't made it. our friend didn't want to tell us about it while we were still on the road for fear that we'd feel sad and it would dampen our trip, so she put the gerbil into a butter tub and stuck it in her freezer.

this gerbil was not an especially treasured pet. we always had lots of pets and my brother went through a phase of rodent collecting, so it was just one of several. we didn't know if this one was male or female, so it was named Herm. in other words, we didn't know if it was a her or a him. hence, her/m. never mind, the joke goes flat when you have to explain it.

it was october when we got home and by the time we had the little buttery body back in our possession, the ground in our part of the country was already getting too hard for digging holes. we didn't want to flush herm down the toilet, partly because, well, yuck, and partly because it was questionable if it was too large to make it through the pipes. so we opted to leave the critter cadaver on ice through the winter.

the next spring we remembered that it was still there and we had a long distance move in our near future, so we needed to go ahead and get herm into a final resting place. my brother was often colorful in his sense of humor and liked to do things a little differently, so he came up with an unusual plan for disposing of his little dead pet.

it was his senior year at the time and we planned a big graduation party for all of our friends. we rented a helium tank, but no balloons so that guests could just fill up their lungs with it and we'd have a big, noisy munchkin festival. we converted a small shoe box into a lovely, satin lined coffin for herm and we even attached little poles to each corner so that it could be carried like a proper coffin to the burial place.

we drafted 4 strong male friends to be pall bearers and carry the corpse through the yard on their shoulders to the garden. we had friends who participated in being loud and raucous mourners as the somber procession moved through the yard. we had a "pastor" on hand who said a few kind words and a prayer at the grave sight. a couple people stood by the hole and recounted their memories of herm while wiping tears from their eyes.

slowly, herm's casket was lowered to the ground and placed gently into the hole we'd prepared. all our party guests took turns throwing handfuls of dirt into the grave until the hole was filled. a stone was placed at the head of the hole with "HERM" engraved on it.

we fake cried a little bit more and then commenced with the revelry and helium huffing. and a good time was had by all.


  1. Well... that was probably a better send off to Herm than I will ever get for me! Remind me to have your brother arrange my service! In fact, give me his full name, so I can amend my Last Will and Testament now! :)

  2. All that for a frozen gerbil! lol

  3. I thought you were gonna send Herm up in the air with balloons.

    I love helium. Seriously, I can sing "The Lollipop Guild" (one from Wizard of Oz) just like the original. I am available for parties if needed. ;)

  4. Once again, I would have loved to be a fly on your wall. You make everything funny, even burrying pets, ha!

  5. What a funny memory! In the meantime, while Herm was entombed in a butter tub in the back of our freezer, many jokes were made about the possibility of an innocent overnight visitor needing some fresh butter for their morning toast and getting a wild surprise! Would we be held responsible if said guest were to drop dead from the shock?

  6. Much like Amy, I thought this was leading up to Herm being carried away by helium balloons, just a big, beautiful box being carried off to the heavens...

    until it reached the ozone, popped, and dumped a tiny, frozen coffin through the roof of some poor soul's house.

  7. I don't know why I find this story disturbing, I mean, hell--I have MEAT in my freezer right now. There's something about a gerbil in the freezer though that's grossing me out and I can't put my finger on it!!! Also--the idea that the gerbil had to hang out in the freezer for a little longer than he/she should have! Blech. No meat for dinner tonight for me.

  8. That's sick--in a disturbingly funny way.

  9. Oh dear. I need to go check that the hamsters are still breathing. When one of them croaks, I'm calling you and your mom!

  10. mom, i remember thinking how funny that would be too! gosh, i guess we tend to be a little dark with the humor sometimes.
    amy & beer, that would have been pretty cool. i guess we didn't want to waste the helium on the gerbil cuz then there would have been less for eating.
    karen, you mean you don't have any frozen pets in your freezer right now? don't be silly, the freezer's way better for storing dead pets than the garage. or the basement.
    tracy & carrie, we'd be happy to provide funeral services for you or your pets if you leave it in your last will and testaments. we like to keep things official.


don't let me be the only one doing the talking around here. spill your guts!