Embracing My Squirrely Self


 

     This is an essay about a few of my favorite squirrely memories. I hope it brings a smile to your day. All of the stories are true, the names of the squirrels have been changed to avoid retribution by the little buggers. 🙂

 

 

Over the years, I’ve taken heat for admitting to my squirrel kinship. Denying the truth for a long time, it became apparent to me that you can’t beat squirrels. You may as well join them, so, I gave up and accepted that somehow, squirrel was part of my package!

It all started years ago. My dad talked about outsmarting the squirrels who kept getting in his bird feeder. They couldn’t be outwitted, even when he greased the pole with Crisco. This did stop them for awhile and they did rather resemble furry firemen sliding down the pole on the way to a fire, but eventually they managed to get to the birdseed and had the last laugh.

I rather admired their tenacity.

Around the same time, my husband had a hankering to grow tomatoes. We live in the heart of the city, so any tomatoes grown would be in container pots. Easily enough done, but he started to notice little bite marks and missing bits. Determining squirrels to be the culprit, we decided we’d outsmart the varmints.

We spoke with gardening buffs about the problem. A variety of solutions promised to run the critters off. Spreading cat hair on the potting soil repels squirrels. It didn’t repel squat. Word from the woods behind our house said they used the feline fur as a nature napkin after chomping away.

Another suggestion: drawing circles around the pots on the ground with bars of soap, the smell would deter them. Not only did it not deter them, they appeared to appreciate these friendly humans who left soap out for them to freshen up after their picnic!

On top of that, I realized the soap circles resembled some kind of backwoods evil ritual spot. It didn’t scare the squirrels any, but the designs gave ME the willies. The soap didn’t wash away nearly as easily as it went on, but the ground did smell Irish Spring fresh for awhile!

I’m sad to say that the squirrels got every single tomato that year. Craig tried again a few years later, but kept the pots on our back porch. He resembled Bill Murray’s gopher-battling character in “Caddy Shack” as he plotted against our tomato munching bandits. This time, we didn’t let the tomatoes reach red perfection. He picked the tomatoes while they were still a bit green and placed them in the kitchen window to ripen. We cheesed the poachers off that year. Craig reacted victoriously, as if he had scored a strategic military coup!

Cover of "Caddyshack"

Caddyshack's Gopher inspired fun loving squirrels everywhere!

 

 

 

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  Much to my mom’s consternation, I never liked wearing dresses or frilly clothes. After embracing my squirrelliness, my reoccuring vision is of myself with other squirrels in red sequined mini dresses wearing white gogo boots. We dance in a chorus line with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. My mom would be so proud, if she were alive, to see me in a dress; but, shake her head that it took the fantasy of my squirrel life to wear one!

Meanwhile, I daydream of the squirrels who live in my woods and training them to dance. I’d sew little dresses, make suitable gogo boots and then call David Letterman to book our national debut on his show. Mom would beam at finally having a star in the family. My living relatives will probably change their names and go into hiding!

**********

Years have been spent plotting how to secure an early medical retirement from my job. The usual avenue for this is to prove either a physical disability or a mental condition rendering me unable to work. None of my schemes have worked so far. A while back, arriving at work and walking along the path between the neighborhood swimming pool, local library and my workplace, it appeared that retirement was about to be mine.

It’s always a pleasure to see my squirrel brothers and sisters, greeting them with a cheery good morning. For whatever reason, they don’t respond in an equally friendly way. If a dime was earned for every time they assume an alert position on the ground and scold me with an annoyed “tsk tks irks tsk irks tsssk,” I could probably fund that early retirement. Apparently they’re not morning creatures until they’ve had that first cup of coffee.

On this particular morning, I spied a fine furry fellow and called out, “Hello brother or sister. Good day to you!” Well, the little bugger proceeded to give me a tongue lashing. Running up a telephone pole, I believe he stuck his tongue out at me. This rude reply raised my hackles. I marched over to the telephone pole and shouted at him, “WHAT is your problem? I do nothing but treat my fine furry kin with love and this is the thanks I get?” If he’d had one of our old tomatoes, he would have lobbed it at me. There I stood, hands on hips, waiting for an explanation. He lorded over me, with that tongue cheekily waving in the wind. At an impasse, I told him if this kept up, greetings wouldn’t be so kind in the future.

About that time I looked up and saw my boss standing outside the garage door of the building, having a cigarette and watching me. My mind immediately squirrelled around two different dilemmas. Did he see me arguing with the squirrel, or did he think I was arguing with the telephone pole? Either way, I could hear his brain singing out, “Cuckoo, Cuckoo” and I turned red as, you got it, a tomato.

My mind quickly realized this could work to my advantage. Finally, a witness to the fact that I’d lost it. ‘Early Retirement’, here I come! Straightening my shoulders, I punched the code that opened the gate to the parking lot. Approaching the door, I mumbled ‘Morning’, sure he’d quiz me on my irrational display. He replied, “Morning, Suse!” as if he hadn’t seen a thing out of the ordinary. Drat! So much for early retirement.

**********

It was time to come out to my family about my squirrel nature. I used my fiftieth birthday party invitation in 2009 to do so. It had multiple pictures of Glendale squirrels, a squirrel enjoying a birthday cake topped with peanuts, and a photo of me taken when I was five years old. It read:

‘I’d like to celebrate that God’s given me fifty years on this Earth (I’ve had some BRILLIANT adventures so far… can’t wait to see what I pull off by the time I hit seventy-five!) with a few friends, family and other questionable associates. If you’d like to stop in for a drink, that’d be splendiferous!

I don’t need gifts (actually, I’d welcome your prayers) (and I could use an A.A.R.P. card application) On second thought, I’d LOVE one of those giant Squirrel statues scattered all over Glendale!

But I would like to ask something: please DO SOMETHING for a cause that means something to YOU. Give of yourself: fifty pennies, fifty quarters, fifty seconds being nice to someone you normally wouldn’t notice, call someone you’ve lost touch with, it’s up to you and your imagination. Then write a note and tell me what you came up with.

I’d like to make my fiftieth birthday as unique as I am and count my blessings with friends!’

I suppose it was too radical a concept. Only a few people did as the invitation suggested and gave of themselves to someone else. I was delighted to see a great variety of squirrel birthday cards. Cousin Linda gave me a lovely bronze squirrel candle holder which I promptly named Stanley. My sister gave me a squirrel holding salt and pepper shakers which got named (appropriately) Stella.

Another person gave me cash. Some of the money went to charity. I used a bit of it to buy an adorable stone squirrel and named her Sweetpea. She resides in my front porch garden; smiling at me whenever I sit by her and her squirrel friend Tulip, with a cup of coffee.

As they say, charity begins at home!

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