How much grist for the mill can one person get out of this particular topic? Can’t this crazy woman stop talking about… squirrels in her garden?
Short answer: Nope. We’re not done with ’em yet.
In fact, even as I write this, the aluminum pie plate tied to the front yard apple tree three weeks ago is clattering in the breeze, scaring not the squirrels it was intended to, but with every rattle causing me to pull back the curtain to see what’s going on out there.
The apples are long gone. Every. Single. One.
The tomatoes — oh, what visions I had of them when we put the seedlings in the ground! Chadwick Cherries gathered in a bowl like jewels; the Girleens eating them by the handful.
The nibbled train wreck the raised bed of tomato plants has become would make a strong man weep.
And the figs? … Not ripe yet, but with already with a scar bitten into every single one.
Ah well. Such is life, and as the friendly soul you encounter on the internets when googling “squirrels eating my tomato plants”* is so eager to point out, squirrels can’t buy produce at the grocery store but you can, so they deserve those heirloom tomatoes.
We’ve come to terms with the absolute desolation of our garden (except for the cucumbers, with the squirrels have let be), but my relationship with the squirrels continues. Continues to be adversarial.
Yesterday, Elder Girleen was safely, happily occupied at the pool with a friend, and because I am nothing if not magnanimous, I said to the Younger Girleen: What would you like to do today? I am at your service.
The answer came quickly. She wanted a cupcake from here, and then she wanted to go to the park.
Your wish is my command, O my Daughter. At least today. We spent much time selecting a cupcake (Red Velvet, Strawberry, Key Lime, Grasshopper, Vanilla with Burnt Caramel, displayed more in the manner of jewels than any hypothetical produce I might’ve dreamed up); we got ourselves to the nearest park and sat down on a bench by the playground where she gave eating an incredible cupcake an old, messy, college try.
I want to save the rest for later, she explained after about twenty minutes, using extraordinarily sticky fingers to replace what was left of the cupcake in its plastic clamshell container. She headed for the playground.
I followed, leaving the cupcake in its container and my bottle of water sitting on the bench — took my purse, of course, because I’m nothing if not an intown Atlanta mom, long ago indoctrinated into the lesson of holding on to one’s bag at all times, even when it seems least necessary.
Ah, the playground! The fodder I can get from squirrels in the garden is nothing compared to what I can wring from playgrounds. Even they are politicized, fraught — I’m so certain they’re one of the crucibles of 21st parenting culture that I even set my story coming out in the fall issue of Brain, Child** in one. (The fact that it’s set in a playground has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I spend a lot of time in playgrounds.)
Two younger mothers sat at one edge of the playground, heads close together, talking Montessori. A nanny waded the shallows, casting alternating glances at her charge, a boy around 4, and the two mothers, who I had a feeling had already rebuffed her efforts at initiating conversation with them.
Want to play hide and seek with me? Younger Girleen asked one of the kids belonging to the public-vs-private-school-debating mothers.
Giving up, she took me by the hand and led me to the swings.
A cry of dismay from the nanny. Look! she cried, pointing.
The first thing we’d noticed when we got to the playground was the sheer number of … squirrels… in the area, and how inured to humans they were. In fact, if Hitchcock’s The Birds had squirrels in the starring role, the way these particular squirrels were acting might’ve served as the tip-off that something was not quite right at the beginning of the movie.
Long story short: A squirrel was running across the playground with Younger Girleen’s cupcake, still sheathed in its plastic container. Up, up a tree, twenty or so feet. Squirrel and cupcake container tumble. Container cracks open, squirrel runs off with the plastic container and leaves the crumbled cupcake on the ground.
Don’t touch that! one of the mothers cried. She and her compatriot resumed their conversation about schools. The nanny stood beside me. She told me that she liked my sandals; we discussed the foraging habits of urban squirrels.
Because that school conversation — I’ve hadit a hundred times. But I’ve never, ever seen a squirrel carry a cupcake up a tree.
* And why does one google “squirrels eating my tomato plants”? Because one can, of course.
**Which was just cited in Judith Warner’s latest NY Times column, rock on!