I drove my parents to their cabin this week.
My mom is having some terrible pain in her jaw and wasn’t sure she was up to the drive, and my dad doesn’t see well enough to drive anymore. I felt lucky to spend time in the car with them, driving north. There was almost no snow. It was strange to drive so far north in the winter and see the floor of the forest bare.
The first thing I did when we got to the cabin was look for Stubby, my mother’s pet red squirrel.
Of course, Stubby is not a pet. Red squirrels are not very friendly. They are not like chipmunks, who are almost fearless, or even like gray squirrels, who get used to people. Red squirrels are more independent and reserved and often a lot naughtier. Stubby had no interest in anything to do with my mom or dad except for digging up my mother’s flowerpots and chattering angrily in the trees when my mom chased him off with her broom.
“You get out of here!” she would holler, stomping her feet on the wooden deck.
“Chip-chip-chip-chip-chip!” Stubby would answer. And although I do not speak fluent red squirrel, I knew this was a very naughty thing to say.
But since Stubby’s lost his tail (and acquired a name), he has become a particular friend of my mother’s—or, at least as much as a red squirrel can be.
“There he is!” I told my mom as soon as we got inside.
Stubby must have been listening. He lives under their deck, as near as we can tell. He climbs up the Norway pine that towers over the deck and eats the seeds from the pinecones. He heard the commotion inside the cabin and raced back and forth across the deck before disappearing beneath it.
Mom was tired. I said I’d give Stubby a treat. I sprinkled a few seeds on the wooden ties my father has around the bird feeder, and I waited.
A few minutes later, Stubby popped up. He looked at the seeds. He approached them slowly, then he picked up a sunflower seed. He hopped up onto the deck that is right outside the window, and he ate his seed while looking in. Then he got another seed and did it again.
“He’s watching us,” I told my mom.
“He is so interested in everything!” my mom said. She has become a great admirer of Stubby, which is quite a change from the days when she would chase him off the deck with her broom.
Stubby sat there for a long time. He ate one seed after another, watching us through the window. Then, when he had eaten all the seeds he wanted, he sat there a few minutes longer, upright on his back feet, his front paws pressed together, as if he were about to make a speech or say a prayer.
And I wondered how much we could ever know about a little red squirrel. We pretend he thinks just like us and we know, of course, this is not true. But I know he was watching, and I was glad he was there, on this day that my mom was not feeling her best. I don’t know what he was pondering as he sat there, his fingers knit together, looking earnestly into the window. But he seemed very intent, as if he was contemplating something.
I believe he was thinking about my mom and, whatever he was thinking, I don’t believe it was bad.
Till next time,