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Hermit Crabs: A Live Souvenir

Picking out the absolute best souvenir to bring home from Cape May, was one of my favorite parts of vacation as a kid. Shopping is one of my favorite activities, so I always spent a fair amount of my vacation time perusing the stores.

Two weeks in Cape May was usually the right amount of time to find the perfect souvenir to bring home. And by far, my favorite childhood souvenir I brought home was a live one; a hermit crab. I was so excited that my parents trusted me with a live animal that was mine and that I could take care of by myself.

Very proudly showing off my first hermit crab, Hermay.

Very proudly showing off my first hermit crab, Hermay.

I picked out a crab in a purple shell and decided to name it Hermay – “her” because I decided it was a female crab and “May” for Cape May. I brought her back to our rental house and was so excited to share with our neighbors my new pet. Hermay’s cage was filled with rainbow colored gravel, she had a sponge that was to be misted every day and a little coconut hut to sleep in during the day (turns out hermit crabs are more active at night).

Everywhere we went the next few days, I proudly boasted that I had my own hermit crab to take care of and call my own. A nice lady at the Victorious Store (when it was still in Washignton Commons Mall) told my family and I how she had a hermit crab that lived for fifteen years. If Hermay lived fifteen years, I would have her through college!

One time when we were visiting my cousins in Ocean City, NJ, we saw a giant hermit crab (much larger than I’ve seen sold on the boardwalk there) just strolling down the sidewalk. We watched him for a while and I really wanted to take him, but my parents thought he was probably somebody’s pet. We regret not taking that giant crab!

Certificate of Adoption from the boardwalk in Ocean City.

Certificate of Adoption from the boardwalk in Ocean City.

I had Hermay for two years. She lived in a few different cages and switched her shells a few times (really cool). At home in Virginia, I would play with her in a bowl of water. In addition to feeding her hermit crab food, the guidebook I had gotten when I bought her said it was okay to feed her other things – so she also got cheerios and pieces of cut up fruit.

Hermit crabs in captivity have variable lifespans depending on their care. But I think our house was too cold with our air conditioning, which is probably why Hermay only lived for two years. After that, my brother and I had quite a few hermit crabs in the years following, always from Cape May. They never lived as long as Hermay did.

And eventually, after a cannibal situation where two crabs became one, we were done with the live souvenirs. My mom and dad were definitely over the crabs, because despite it being my responsibility, I was not always the one taking care of my hermit crabs.

No matter their size, hermit crabs are a responsibility like any other pet.

No matter their size, hermit crabs are a responsibility like any other pet.

After the last year of hermit crabs, I always joked with my dad about getting another one. He and my mom really did not want me to get anymore and they tried to dissuade me by telling me I had to use my own money to buy any new hermit crabs. So that was the end of that!

Before I left Cape May this summer, I noticed lots of kids on the Washington Street Mall with cages containing hermit crabs. It reminded me of so many memories and my first real pet responsibilities. It made me smile, and think of a simpler time in my life.

Connect with Rachel on Twitter @capemayrachel.