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Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Skitter of Squirrels

Scurry, tackle and play the squirrels are dashing into the yard for the morning romp. They are noisy, scratching up trees in a spiral twist, and racing through crackling leaves. They cavort with each other, doing somersaults and tumbling. They freeze only when I let the old dog out, but when they realize the dog is not a threat they go back to foraging for food on the ground.

I sit at the dining room table in front of the glass french doors munching on my breakfast cereal and watching two squirrels who are sitting upright just on the other side of the glass chewing their breakfast of seeds. They have finished their game of tag. Their tails are gracefully curled upward. They can see me munching. I can see them chewing. Have they come to thank me for the peanuts scattered on the patio just for them? Most people who feed the birds don’t like having squirrels. The truth is whenever we buy birdseed we also purchase a bag of peanuts for the squirrels. They don’t bother the birdseed that is in the bird feeders when there are peanuts for them to eat.

The squirrels seem to mingle in a balanced harmony with the birds. After all, they share the same trees. If only humans could be that reasonable.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Trick and Treat

Each year my mother would reiterate her two rules about Halloween. The first rule was “no accepting sweets.” The “no candy” rule extended all year with the exception of the Christmas multicolored ribbons my Aunt gave as a gift. However, on Halloween she saw the parade of little monsters and goblins ringing our doorbell as beggars. “Saying trick or treat doesn’t make it right,” she muttered. Mom had grown up poor and proud. She had never asked for a handout in her life.

As generous as she was to the neighborhood children every other day of the year, on Halloween she halfheartedly handed them sticks of sugar free gum or tiny bags of popcorn. As soon as I was old enough, I shared the task of opening the front door. I was not allowed to join them. As I glanced at the full sacks of tasty treats each child gripped tightly, the demon of envy crawled up and out like a Halloween spider. The trick I learned was to look into each child’s face, not what they carried. It melted my resentment like warm chocolate and it is a technique I have used all of my life.

Mom’s second Halloween rule was that I could only wear a costume I designed and stitched myself. We were not poor, but every spare nickel and dime went into a savings account my mother called my college fund. “It’s just a waste of money to buy a costume when you can make one yourself,” Mom said.

This was my treat. I spent weeks thinking about what costume I could make that was both unique and fun to wear. Looking for something unlike the trite witches and ghosts, I would flip pages in magazines. After watching the Shriner’s parade one summer, I crafted an outfit that resembled a genie sprung from a bottle. I sorted through the old clothes, costume jewelry, hats, scarfs, bits of fabric. The balloon leg pants came from a tattered chenille bedspread. The pants puffed out at the legs, held tightly to my waste and ankles with elastic seams. The wrapped turban was scrounged from one of my father’s old jersey undershirts. I wore a single hoop earring. I stitched slippers that had a curled back point at the toe. I can still see that one-of-a-kind costume in my memory and feel the sense of accomplishment. It has lasted longer than the taste of any candy.