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It wasn't until Regina's demise that I learned the truth about her name.
"It came from the movie 'Mean Girls,'" said Sylvia, former keeper of the dearly departed. "The character 'Regina' was actually the meanest of the mean girls."
Suddenly, one, small aspect of the recently deceased rodent's life made sense to me. I was almost positive the miniature hamster that had arrived in our home a year before, had come with the name "Cookie" which I assumed was a reference to the black-white-black color scheme of her coat -- sort of an Oreo cookie motif. Somewhere along the line, however, Sylvia had begun referring to a something named "Regina" that was living in her room. Never one to ask too many questions, lest I be barred entirely from my teenager's life, I just presumed she had somehow come up with a different rodent to fill the burgeoning complex of cedar shavings and alfalfa pellets atop her dresser.
"Wait. So, what happened to Cookie?" I asked. "Was she replaced by Regina?"
"Duh, Dad. Cookie became Regina after biting me for about the 10th time," she replied. "She was a little witch right from the get-go. I changed her name to reflect her vicious temperament!"
There were no tears shed at Cookie/Regina's demise. I hadn't been altogether pleased to learn of her arrival in the first place, given that over the years, previous house hamster experiments had produced dubious odors, maddening sounds and even a fit of murderous rage. That particular hamster, Peaches, (who was sold to us as a boy, by the way) had emptied an entire platoon of baby hamsters into her nest just as we headed off to church one long ago Easter Sunday morning. By the time we rushed home from Mass, she had already eaten most of her pups in an apparent fit of cannibalistic, post-partem melancholy. (I still feel if we could have gotten to her in time with a chocolate bunny or even a marshmallow peep things might have been different, but I digress.)
That incident alone should have resulted in a lifetime ban on rodents in our home. Regina, however, arrived as a gift to Sylvia from one of her high school friends at a time in life when Kristin and I had just begun to find ourselves tiptoeing through the emotional minefield of our soon-to-be-empty nest. Sylvia, now a high school senior, could have brought home a hippopotamus and we would have probably just smiled and helplessly shook our heads. The fact that we immediately rushed out and bought a "replacement hamster" once Regina kicked doesn't speak well of our coping skills at this point. With graduation season just around the corner we're going to be in big trouble if someone shows up with a baby hippo!
(Be sure to check out TheVoiceofHolmesCounty.com for John's weekly podcast, where this week he recounts the story of Peaches the hamster and her dastardly behavior!)