Thursday, November 03, 2011

Chipmunks and Recovery

In 2003, we cleared out a small patch of woods and built a foundation for a doublewide trailer. We attempted to keep a couple grown trees in front of the house, but ice had different ideas and took one down the first few months we were in the house. It was the following summer that I realized a chipmunk (at least one) was living in the flower bed I built around the stump and remaining tree. That chipmunk, while adorable to watch proved to terrorize constantly over the years.

He caught my car on fire by bunching up a cluster of dry grass and sticks against the engine. He chewed off wires to throw the car sensors into a mess. He dug up roots to perennials I tried to plant, and bulbs never came up. He terrorized more by jumping out from under the porch each time you went out - squeaking and chattering to startle even when we expected it. I wondered when he would get bored of those pesky instances and move into the house to cause some real damage.

Our dog tried to dig him out. I tried to persuade him to move down back. We even transplanted one to my parent's house - completely by accident since he hitched a ride under the car somewhere. For a bit I had hope that the chipmunk was gone. It didn't take long for another to take its place. They were safe up here in front of the house, away from any predators. My daughter and I had standoffs with the chipmunk, attempting to chase him down, but those things can climb trees far too fast. The thing bordered on the fringe of funny to a little scary. I tried filling up his little tunnels all through my front flower garden. Tried laying big rocks over them, tried everything.

In amongst that time, my twelve year old suffered the loss of three dear pets to multiple skunk attacks - ducks she had gotten after a school project. Her oldest sister moved out. We lost a dear friend who walked out of our lives for no reason other than misunderstandings that left us fully in the dark. We lost security when my dad nearly died and his health remained hampered. We lost great grandparents, and had our faith in humanity shaken to the foundations for the mess that happened over my dad - a mess still not untangled yet. And there were dozens of dark little things too.

My youngest would grip me often in a tight hug and whisper "why does it all have to go bad at once?" I had no answer for her other than "I don't know, all we can do is carry on - try to focus on the small good things" while my heart broke again. She's only twelve and so kind-hearted. How do you make anything all right again, how do you help her feel safe again? I just hug her back and keep my teary eyes well hidden. Too much change or hurt too fast for all of us, especially my youngest.

Things are better now, but we are still balancing on a board that could tip one way or the other at any moment. The bad isn't done for any of us yet - things will continue to change drastically and leave empty spots for a year or so yet. I'm ready. I can only hope my youngest will be too.

This past week a family of four cats stopped by for a visit. One adult, a larger kitten, and two small kittens. I have no idea where they came from. They were not tame, running from us the moment they saw us. But my youngest would rush home from school and sit out on the porch to watch the kittens. Each day she did this until the one would go to her and purr under her hand. The other is close but still a little skittish. Then one day they were gone.

Cats don't stay around here long. We've lost more than I care to count either to wild animals, sickness, or other cats in fights. That's why I wouldn't get her one. I didn't want to see her heart broken again. She wondered about these two kittens she had befriended, but since they weren't technically ours, she wasn't painfully attached. Two days later, as I was making supper, I looked up to see the two little cats prancing across the road, headed for our driveway. I hollered to Shay that I found the cats. She rushed out and spent some time with them. Our visiting cats.

The chipmunk that has terrorized seems to be gone. Whether the cats "got 'im" or just chased him off, I don't know. I'm just thrilled to not have the little critter sitting all pretty on the stump, cleaning himself after he chewed off another plant or car wire. A constant little nag - now gone.

The cats seem to have gone back to wherever they came from again, but I'm fairly certain they'll be back for visits now. Could be they like Shay's company or the chicken bones she gives them. Either or, it works. And she's genuinely smiling again. For at least a little while, her mind is on something good again.

The chipmunk is gone for the moment and my youngest is smiling. All over the family of cats that just happened upon our house one day before the freak October 2011 snow storm.... Life is a mystery...

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