[This post is a part of the Letters to an Adopted Child series. Read the series preface here.]

Mice are furry creatures with adorable eyes and a pointed, whiskered nose at the edge of a round body. They have long tails and long legs, compared to their own size. An entire mouse can fit on the palm of your hand.

We associate mice with frightened scurrying. This is true both for the mouse that has been found and often the human who has found it.

One Sunday, your mom was in her workshop building a coffee table when I heard her scream, “Mouse! Mouse! Davis, there’s a mouse!” I ran downstairs. She pointed to where she had last seen it, and I, holding a plastic tub, advanced. The mouse shot from underneath the washer and zig-zagged around the paint cans. I met it on the other side and captured it underneath the tub.

It made sense to me why the mouse feared us, because I knew what people have done to mice in the past. A quick google search shows effective, fatal strategies to solve mice problems. So it was always a possibility in this moment, for the mouse in my basement, that his life was in danger. That I would kill him.

But how did the mouse know that? One mouse cannot tell another mouse how she narrowly escaped a person’s basement, or how she had lost a friend who couldn’t resist the smell of peanut butter. It must be that the fear of humans is naturally instilled in mice; they are given it from the beginning.

I ran to the store and bought some live traps. We put some peanut butter at the end of a weighted plastic tunnel, designed to lure the mouse in, be weighed down, and snap a front gate shut. You could then carry the mouse outside and let it go, or drive it in your car like it’s your pet cat in a crate.

We brought the traps downstairs, and found the mouse standing up against the plastic wall. I put the traps near the tub and let the mouse loose. It was then that two things happened. First, the mouse did not go in the live traps, but instead ran away, climbed a power cable from a standing lamp to an outlet high on the east wall, then jumped into a nook in the ceiling. It was gone, for now. We turned to leave the basement, when on the west wall a second mouse fell from the ceiling. There were two mice. At least.

I don’t know why we are afraid of mice. I suppose it’s possible they could chew through cables or small portions of wood or drywall if they choose to, but the likelihood is that they will be so afraid of us that they’ll live out the rest of their lives in fear and trembling. Symbolically, mice represent not threat, but vulnerability.

Vulnerability pushes you to a place beyond your control, causes you to run and hide, and makes you face the limit of your abilities and powers. You are subject to another’s will. But we, in our homes, establish control, order, and strength. Mice, in a way, remind us of a feeling we’ve long tried to forget—one of powerlessness, limitation, and fear.

Maybe that’s why I needed so desperately to catch those mice, to take them far away from my house. The thought of them dwelling my walls disrupted my peace—and that’s the unforgivable sin.