It was a blistering August day, and I -- already stressed to tears over the endless preparations for moving out of the house where my family had lived for 14 years -- stood speechless on the sidewalk as a dubious cast of characters loaded the truck with something that struck me as less than tender loving care. Then our beloved family babysitter, to whom we had tearfully bid goodbye, showed up at my side. Beaming, she presented my son with a huge package, the contents of which was making suspicious scratching sounds. "It's a hamster!" she proclaimed, apparently fulfilling my 5-year-old's lifelong dream. I resisted the temptation to hand Billy, as my son promptly named him, to the movers and resigned myself to having one more responsibility. But emblazoned in my memory -...
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