It’s Cool to Be a Mammal

Laurie Uttich - Oviedo, Florida
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, December 21, 2012
Laurie Uttich
Photo Credit: Alpana Aras of www.storyboxart.com

Laurie Uttich believes in the power of pack animals—mammals who help the other members of the pack in times of great need, such as job loss, illness, and death.

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The other day, when my 9-year-old son, Zack, and I were walking the dog, he turned to me and said, “You know, I’m really glad I’m a mammal. Aren’t you?”

I said, “Sure.” My younger son, Cody, slowed down on his scooter and glanced back at us. Zack then proceeded to list all the reasons why being a mammal is so awesome. We have hair and we’re warm-blooded and we have babies. And even though reptiles outsmarted the Ice Age and have scales and other cool stuff, they just can’t compare to mammals.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic, so I said, “Absolutely. I see your point.” Cody finally stopped the scooter, turned around, put his hands in the air, and said, “Really? Mammals? Really? That’s what we’re talking about?” like Zack and I had lost our minds.

Well, I could see that point, too, but not Zack. “Cody, if you weren’t a mammal,” he told his little brother, “you wouldn’t be here with us, because most moms leave the offspring after the eggs crack.” Cody rolled his eyes and got back on his scooter, but I thought about this pack trait. It seems to be the biggest mammal perk.

This year hasn’t been easy for many. Friends and family members have lost jobs or taken huge pay cuts. Neighbors have become ill, couples have separated, and parents have died. One close friend has two boys: one with leukemia, the other with a brain injury. It is too much to bear without a pack.

Human mammals, I believe, extend their pack beyond their offspring. While I watch those I love struggle and suffer, I also see many others drop off meals, turn holiday parties into toy drives, pick up other people’s children, and pour wine when someone needs to talk. Almost every day, I hear a person I know say to someone else, “What can I do for you?” and mean it. No one is leaving after someone else’s eggs have cracked.

That’s what keeps me a believer in all things good, large and small. I don’t know why things happen the way they do. I don’t know why some people are forced to suffer more than others, why they are given more than anyone can reasonably bear. I don’t know why some prayers are answered and others seemingly ignored. But I do know there is a line of people who will bring over a chicken casserole and take the kids to football practice.

I believe those acts—those people in our packs who help us pick up the pieces—are the answered prayer, the miracle. And because of that, I believe my son Zack is right: it’s cool to be a mammal.

Laurie Uttich lives in Oviedo, Florida, a small town outside of Orlando, where she is surrounded by a pack of people who demonstrate the power of good deeds nearly every day. She lives with eight mammals—a husband, three boys, two dogs, and two cats—and teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. She recently completed a collection of essays titled, “What the Daughter I Will Never Have Knows.”

Independently produced by Dan Gediman for This I Believe, Inc.