My Hermit Crab Essay

July 15, 2020

I’ve decided to spend a bit of time studying the writer’s craft (why not?) One thing I’ve been hearing about has been the “hermit crab” essay. I did a little research and discovered that these are essays “hidden” inside other forms (for example, stories written in the form of recipes, or shopping lists, or email exchanges).  I fully intend to write one of these very soon, but meanwhile I prefer to write what I’d first supposed these were. Hence, my hermit crab essay…

I bought my children many a hermit crab back in the day—they were pretty cheap pets (if you didn’t count their Taj Mahal homes and their tins of food made apparently from gold dust). They were quiet and fairly clean. We would return home from the Sea Shell Shop in Rehoboth Beach with our latest crustacean friends and accessories, and I would briefly feel like Wonder Woman (how can she raise five kids AND a menagerie? Amazing!!) 

In short order, the critters would be named, fed, stared at briefly, then forgotten. I could hardly blame the kids, as these creatures provided the exact same amount of amusement as empty shells would have. So they were watered, nourished, and had their cages cleaned (very) sporadically by yours truly.

This state of affairs would continue for, at most, a week or so until 1) they died dramatically, their wizened bodies out of their shells, sprawled across the cage or 2) they somehow escaped (THEN no doubt died dramatically, only this time in a closet or behind the sofa).

I have no stories of enjoying our delightful “fur babies” or the like over the years. But I proudly point to the hermit crabs when my now grown offspring complain about their pet-deprived childhoods. “We had so MANY of them!” I remind my kids. “Doesn’t that count for something?” I don’t mention that we had so many because they all perished from neglect.

I fear there will be a reckoning. My nightmare is that when at last I reach the pearly gates, every last crab will be there, over that Rainbow Bridge, along with our other doomed pets-- the goldfish and the hamsters and Speed the turtle. They will shake their tiny heads as they ponder whether to let me into Heaven, she who had no business bringing them home, she who doesn’t even LIKE the animal kingdom. 

Towards dream’s end, I have been reincarnated. I huddle in my striped tree snail shell in my dirty cage. I wait in vain for breakfast, for companionship. I plot my escape to the smelly sneaker under my son’s bed. I awaken in tears, sorry at last for my cavalier attitude towards these, God’s precious creatures.

Maybe it’s not too late! I will buy hermits for Aiden and Peter this summer at the beach! Yes!  This time, I swear, I will be a WONDERFUL pet mom. These little crabs will live for decades, treasured members of our household.

And I will be redeemed.


    I am an author (of four books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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