When I was ten, I wanted nothing more than a cute little hamster that would follow me to school and around the house in a hamster ball. On my eleventh birthday, I thought this wish finally became a reality when my father took me to the pet store to pick one out!
“I want that one!” I said, pointing to the smallest, most delicate looking hamster I could find. This hamster was like the pet-equivalent of me, but better—this hamster was a redhead! I had selected a tiny orange, black, and white one just so the hamster would match my favorite new name, Ginger.
I don’t think I wanted a hamster so much as I wanted a Ginger. Really, the whole point of getting a hamster, for me, was to name it Ginger, because I love names. As Told by Ginger was the best cartoon at the time, in my humble opinion, and naming inanimate stuffed animals, dolls, and even select corners of my house was not good enough. I got a child-sized guitar, named her Maddie, and never played her. Then I got a normal-sized guitar, same thing happened, named her Sally. Sally is covered in dust in the basement, and Ginger is dead.
But back to the story: I needed to give a living thing a name. I needed that type of power, to mark a living thing forever. “You!” I’m sure I yelled like a dictator in that pet store, “are now Ginger forever! To everyone! And you can’t argue about it!”
(On a side note, this is why I don’t want children. I only think I want a house full of children so I can name a house full of children and force their first hobbies on them. I just want to force a girl to forever be called Carolina and spend her early years playing soccer, and a boy to forever be called Troy and spend his early years learning the art of dance. And then resent me for all these decisions. And they wouldn’t be able to do anything to take these early decisions back!
I’m a tiny, tiny, fragile little girl. This is my Napoleon complex.)
At the pet store, the part-time employee in an oversized blue polo stupidly gave a tiny eleven year old (who looked seven) the box of live hamster to hold, while my dad helped me pick out a cage and accessories. In the end, I got a large, clear tub to stare at my hamster at as long and as often as I cared to.
I couldn’t wait to make the hamster love me, as all pets do! We took Ginger home, set the hamster up in the tank, and I ignored the new edition to my family for the next several hours as my dad took me to a birthday hockey game.
I think this neglect so early in our relationship is why Ginger got fat. That, and I stopped taking Ginger out to roll around in the hamster ball. It was fun at first, making Ginger roll around and around as long as I wanted in a tiny room, until I noticed that little brown pellets rolling around the ball, which could fall out the ball’s cracks for breathing (why do hamsters need air? Why?)
Shortly after this, Ginger started plotting a hamster-sized escape. We put the large tank on my tall dresser, which Ginger learned to crawl up and down out of, and into my closet. There, Ginger nibbled on the feet of my oversized stuffed animals. Because it’s not like Ginger was fed enough (over-fed, ungrateful hamster.)
When Ginger got very obese-ly fat, I saw my first pair of balls. Being eleven and prematurely narcissistic, I assumed my hamster was whatever gender I wanted the hamster to be. Nope, oops. Ginger was a George, and I learned about male anatomy (which was good, because my parents never got around to giving me the talk after my first period. I needed this lesson in biology.)
I also learned about death. One day, when I got home from school, I did the normal routine: cross the hall to my room, put the backpack on my bed, turn to head back out for a snack, but as I turned my head this day, I noticed Ginger/George’s tank was missing.
“Ginger?” I asked the air above my dresser. I still always called George Ginger.
“Dad?” was my next thought.
“Yeah?” he asked, nonchalantly ducking his head in my room.
I pointed my little finger to the naked dresser.
“Oh, yeah, I had to take that out,” my dad stated. “The hamster died.” Then he left my room to go to second shift at work, having already had a productive day of letting his daughter know that death ultimately meant nothing. Life moved on.