Yesterday morning Babygirl discovered that her guinea pig had died during the night. Beauty, named for a long golden coat that nearly matched Belle's ballgown, has been around for a long time, as little piggies go. Looking back, I think she came to join us in 2007! Google says guinea pig lifespan is 4-5 years, so she was quite elderly.
Beauty is the last in a long, long line of small pets. We've had hamsters, parakeets, guinea pigs and a psychopathic rat - all in addition to the usual dogs and cats. Every child has had a pet of their very own, usually more than once. Curlygirl had a guinea pig who would snuggle up and trill like a tribble. Citygirl had a small zoo in her room for a while, with a series of parakeets with fruit names: Kiwi, Blueberry and the like. We had a cat who would let the hamsters out so she could play with them. We had a hamster escape for so long we presumed it to be dead until we found it hiding under the fridge with an enormous stockpile of dog kibble.
Of all the little creatures, guinea pigs are my favorite. They are quiet, NOT nocturnal, and have no desire to escape. They complain when they are out of food or water, reminding young caregivers to take care of them. They never bite, and they learn to love a good snuggle. Since Babygirl is not allowed because of her transplant to handle any kind of feces, Beauty and I became good friends over her weekly cage-cleaning. I will honestly miss her.
Babygirl has been stoic, dealing with the aftermath of disposal and cleanup. She doesn't want another piggy right now, and maybe later.....
But I think this phase of my parenting life is over. There's been at least one small animal in the house dependent at least in part on my vigilance for nearly 20 years. Babygirl is our last child, and her 'milestones' are things that we won't, for good or ill, experience again: Elementary school graduation, first formal dance, last Barbie-shoe sweep-up. I don't have to change a diaper again unless I choose to. I don't have to sit through any more dance recitals, recorder concerts, violin practice or softball games.
My brother was wistfully discussing the fact that this year is his youngest son's last time to participate in the pinewood derby. I feel his pain.
For those of us with more than one child, the chaos of the years where it feels like EVERYBODY is doing EVERYTHING and you have to be EVERYWHERE to see it all - it's overwhelming. I'm sure I loved it - I remember LOVING it. But for both my brother and I, our last kid is functionally an only child. And there is a bittersweet awareness that this is it. The rapid tumble of children leaving our home from 2006 to 2011 (six of them!) is over, and Babygirl is easing us toward an empty nest.