A New England Squirrel
My grandparents home, a grand affair from the 1800's with four large columns, had a pretty little carriage house in the back nestled among the branches of a long lilac hedge. It's charm could not ward off the damages of decades following decades of rain and snow. Pretty as it was, the time had come to take her down. My grandfather was aided in this endeavor by our family's good friend, John. Several of my cousins and I stood off watching the destruction. Together the two men wielded axe and sledge hammer making quick work of the job laying the building upon the ground. Dismantling the roof they found in the beams a dead squirrel and a nest with three young squirrels. You might as well as lit a firecracker under me I was so excited! John removed the nest with gloved hands and placed it in the empty 50 gallon burn barrel that stood nearby. I was but five years old yet tall enough to easily peer over the edge at the beauties. My Nana was pacing, anxious, and left the scene witnessed by the banging of the screen door. Little did I know or care for her concern; I was delirious with the prospect of caring for three such beautiful baby creatures. I should have cared, had I known what her cares were perhaps I could have dissuaded her from what was to happen. Meanwhile, I ran and found a useful baby doll bottle, warmed milk and, wearing gloves, fed the babies. I don't know who was more pleased, the baby squirrels or me. Feeding the babies, one at a time, they would quickly and deftly held the bottle in perfect, infinitely miniscule hands and nursed, their eyes closed in rapture. Noting every perfection of the little squirrels and their delight in being fed was an overwhelming experience for a five year old. It was incredibly beautiful and I was happy beyond words or reason. My, however, Nana left the room.
The next day, Monday, meant I was off to school and the adults promised to take care of the babies. Off I went but when the school bell rang that afternoon I practically flew home. Up the double track drive I ran to the backyard, dropped by things upon the grass and peered in to the barrel. It was empty. I couldn't believe it, blinking, willing them to appear. Still empty. Not possible! Something was wrong, something was amiss, someone had been very bad! Running into the house through the side door, racing around the corner and into the kitchen just as my Nana stepped from the pantry and brought me up short, my heart in my throat. "Nana! Someone has taken the baby squirrels!" Had I noticed I would have seen the answer in my beautiful Nana's drawn face, drooped shoulders, and anxious hands. But what five year old realizes these things. Instead I watched her lips in horror as the realization of what she was saying quickly brought me to the conclusion she was trying to make. She's given two of the three babies away. It was a terrible moment; we never spoke of it again although I wish we had.
The scar upon my heart quickly healed in the care of the remaining baby, Timothy. He stayed in the house, slept in my room next to me upon a pillow, and, when he was older and able, would slip through the sliding screen insert in the double hung hung window and jump to the near branch of the towering oak that once stood just outside my window. A year and many stories later, our little family returned to our life in southern California and Timothy to a permanent home in the trees and woods just behind my grandparents home. My Nana would write of seeing Timothy among the birds that feasted each morning on the bread crumbs she tossed upon the grass outside her kitchen window. There is not one single moment when I watch a big, beautiful New England gray squirrel that I do not think of Timothy and how very grateful I am that my Nana kept one of the squirrels for her grand daughter...even though she didn't want to.