So, What Happened With The Squirrel?

A story needs its climax, or it isn’t a story.  It’s a tell-about or a ramble or a flat-line, unsatisfying at best, provoking at worst.

Here is the climax to the epic of the squirrel on the back porch.

I did not actually “go in” when I said I was.  I chickened out.  Something about climbing the ladder and being at eye level with an unpredictable, strong-willed, female animal, no matter the size, completely cowed me.  Plus the possibility of encountering some soggy babies, pink, mewling, and blind, made me retract like a turtle.  If a woman can be said to be unmanned, I was.

Who knows where ideas come from, especially simple, self-evident ones.  But I remembered at that moment that I have an 18-year-old son.   Isn’t rat-removal what sons are for??  Isn’t rat-removal a small thing to ask after, well, everything starting with morning sickness up ‘til the most recent load of post-soccer-practice laundry? Soccer practice being the reason he wasn’t home at the moment, I had to wait until the next morning on the way to school to officially commission him.

“Soldier,” I said, “Take that hill!”

And I decamped to my bivouac to watch the progress via binoculars.

Out he strode that afternoon to do battle, cheerful and willing, but hurrying because he and his mates were on the way to Taco Bell to get one of those new concoctions said to be bigger than the internet.  He wore his welding goggles and gloves.  A squirrel sat out in the yard up on her haunches, watching, pretending to eat a left-over pecan.  Was it her?  Our squirrel? Was it her henchwoman and spy?  Was our squirrel even now in the nest, awaiting the first nestquake, claws at the ready?

The hungry, Taco Bell-bound warrior on the ladder knocked twice on the beam, scooped up two loads of pine straw and my shredded chair cushions, deposited them in the herb garden, and cantered off to Tex-Mex heaven.

So, no, no rabid attack, no soggy babies, just me in the anticlimax realizing that it is perfectly ok to devolve unpleasant tasks onto one of the kids and lose none of my self-respect.


You Only Go Around Twice


I’ve heard of couch potato husbands, easy chair husbands, procrastinating, junk-eating, ball-cap-wearing dumbos who sloth from bed to couch to chair to bed and moan about working for the man.

But I’ve never met one.

The husband I live with, the preacher, is never still, never without an odd little project going.  At 8:30 in the evening, when I am curled in a cold ball on the couch, incoherent and done contributing anything of worth to the world, he will walk through with electricians tape and a power drill.  I don’t ask.

Why not now?” is his motto.  The whir of the coffee roasting equipment – a hot-air popcorn popper he got at the thrift store for a dollar and tricked out with a soup can chimney – assails my nodding off under a quilt.  10 minute down time?  He thinks he can re-wire a lamp, hang a shelf, felt-tab the chair legs, or, like last night, clean out the hall closet that has been headquarters for supplies for one of his hobbies that he decided to move in its entirety to the garage attic and take a break from.  Many a door slamming in and out to the garage that task took.  Door-slamming is part of the satisfaction of a project well engaged in for him.  But soon enough the closet was emptied and the contents of the top shelf was now my project.

26 years of pictures:  loose pictures, albums both chronological or made for specific events, albums still in good shape, albums falling apart and gappy, framed pictures, weddings, births, baptisms, teeth, bikes, birthdays, vacations, grandparents and babies and friends and all the years piled out of order.

Ok.  Plan of attack.  What would Pinterest do?  Alright, never mind that.  What would Julie Kinworthy do?  Stacks? Yes, I hear you. By year? . . .but look at this picture!  It is Will in a southern boy’s required infant lace get-up, except he’s holding a football and pointing.   I had forgotten about the football.

And here is the castle we built out of refrigerator boxes for Adrienne’s 7th birthday and named Tintagel after King Arthur’s birthplace.  I feel the temperature of that cold October day, and remember that I had had to take Eliza to the doctor earlier and she was lying inside sick. So I was back and forth between castle and sick child, but didn’t the castle look great?  We painted it and hung real ivy over its crenellated walls.  Wow.  When did we do that?

Here is Eliza in a plastic swing in her bathing suit, hunched sound asleep and with a band aid on her right foot.  The band aid!  It is taut over her foot chub.  I want to kiss it.

Here is a table set for a holiday.  The dishes are a set I had forgotten, a set given to me by my grandmother when I moved into my first apartment.  Seeing them calls up that odd twinge in owning my own dishes.  Red table cloth, Cornish hens and wild rice.  It worked!

Here is Baby Will on the hardwood floor in the hallway, yes the very hallway I can see from the chair I am sitting in.  Why does it seem like another house?  How can the 6’ 3” whiskered teenager loping in just now from basketball practice like a happy Golden Retriever be the same person as this pictured dumpling with moist lips and dewy eyes and silk hair?

And yet, at the same time that I am immersed in hyper-detailed memory, I have this feeling that I am seeing it all for the first time. Actually paying attention this time.  I was in the picture, smiling on that day, but I wasn’t kicking back admiring our triumph of a homemade castle. I was thinking ahead to the clean-up, to the next and the next and the next.  Did I live all those years with my head in tomorrow? Looks like it.

And, worse, I was constantly thinking about how I looked, placing myself at the low end of the ‘beautiful and skinny’ spectrum.

The bad news is that I spent too much of the first time around feeling fat, ugly, tired, and worried.  But the good news is the handy-man husband saved the day and pulled it all down so I could live it again.

In the end the only plan of attack that emerged was this gem:  Just put it all back up there.  Neatly.  So that’s what I did.  Actually that’s what the preacher did.  The project was mine, but as I mentioned, he relishes a project and with such a juicy, desperate, and available one, he jumped in with vigor.

I sat on the couch and enjoyed the life of the pictures – the food on the holiday plates, the ivy covered castle, the fat baby hand pointing – free of the worry I had the first time around.  It was great.

“I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten.”  Joel 2:25