(an updated version from the Lawrence Journal-World's River City Jules)
Our family grew by two over the winter break.
We planned to give our two older daughters Taylor Swift concert tickets for Christmas and wanted to get our youngest daughter, Caroline, something equally exciting that would not involve taking a six-year-old to a concert.
Or owning a puppy.
So what does one give a miniature diva that is equally as awesome as a ticket to Taylor Swift?
And is not a puppy?
Hermit crabs, of course.
Our plan worked perfectly Christmas morning as Caroline squealed with delight at the tank while her sisters danced around her, waving their tickets and singing “Love Story.”
(Luke sat oblivious to them all as he dug into his new magic kit.)
She named them Hermit (the yellow one) and Kermit (the green one, duh) and immediately began playing them on the living room floor. Meanwhile, I studied the crab care book and learned that we needed to create a Florida-Keys-like environment in order to keep the crabs alive.
This is not easy to do in the middle of a Kansas winter. The challenge of feeding, warming and watering these seemingly h-i-g-h maintenance sand-dwellers with whom Caroline had so deeply bonded quickly took over my life, and I began to crack under the pressure.
My days soon revolved entirely around keeping these creatures from dying on my watch. My husband grew concerned about this relentless quest for humidity and warmth, concern he finally expresses one evening after work.
“Why is the tank in front of the fireplace?” he asked.
“The crabs were cold,” I replied.
“So why is the fireplace off?” he asked, reaching for the switch to turn it back on.
“DON’T TOUCH IT!” I screamed. “The tank hit 90, I almost baked the poor guys.” I ran over and poked them to make sure they were still alive, a habit reminiscent of the early days of fretting minute-by-minute over the wellbeing of our firstborn. Post-crab-purchase depression was only one more sleepless night away.
“Julie, they’re crabs. They live on beaches,” he said, shaking his head, “without anyone regulating the temperature for them.”
“I know, it’s a miracle,” I said. “Do you think the vet would take them when we go on vacation? And neuter and vaccinate them too?”
“They’re crabs, Julie, not dogs,” he said, leaving the room.
Alone with the crabs, I began to wonder if my husband was right. Was I taking this whole crustaceous pet ownership thing a bit too seriously? I looked down at Kermit again, wishing we had sucked it up and taken Caroline to the concert instead.
Just then Caroline joined me, skipping over to the tank and giggling with delight as she pulled her two buddies out for a little playtime, and I realized these hermit crabs are a far better love story for her than Taylor Swift.
And a lot easier than a puppy.
Or so I thought...
Fast forward one month later, when I received the following text from my husband:
"Kermit is on the roof" (code for nearly dead)
After some text debate over whether or not I should call our family priest, I called my beloved to find out the scoop.
"He's dead," he said with about as much fanfare as you might imagine.
"How do you know?" I asked, having never seen a dead crab before, save for those in the seafood case at the grocery store.
"I'm a doctor," he said (family practice for humans, btw), "I know what dead looks like. I saw him in the corner staring out into space, so I tried scaring him. He didn't retract like usual. I tried to pull him out of the tank, but he slipped out of his shell, limp and lifeless."
"Caroline is going to freak," we agreed.
I will spare you the details of her reaction and simply say that I hope when my time comes she is even half as sad as she was about the crab.