Sir Monkeypants and I are not pet people. I do not think we will ever be one of those couples who, confronted with an empty nest, adopt a puppy and start pushing it around in a dog-stroller and calling it our little poopsie-whoopsie. Although, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand people who do this. Once I was reading an advice column and a daughter had written in to say that her parents wanted to bring their new dog to the annual family Thanksgiving dinner, only she didn’t want the dog at her house, and her parents were crazily claiming that the dog was now part of the family and should be included. The advice columnist was all, “They’re nuts, you have to shut that crap down, and ban them from family events until they get a grip,” and I thought that was way harsh. I mean, the daughter shouldn’t have to have a dog in her house if she didn’t want but surely she could understand that her parents like having something that needs them and loves them and that they can take care of.
Anyway! My point here is that despite the begging of our three children, we are not pet people, and I don’t really have any natural tender feelings towards animals – usually. But over the summer, this little chipmunk started visiting our backyard on a regular basis. He was after cherry tomatoes from my garden, and he’d get one and then sit on the top step on our patio and nibble away at his tomato, leaving juice and seeds and crud all over. Sometimes he’d be in some kind of mood and he’d chirp away out there, like he was singing a little Ode To Tomatoes. Sometimes he’d finish his snack and just chill out on the step, sunning himself like he was having a nice afternoon at an outdoor cafe and was in no rush to get the bill.
At first I kind of grumbled about it, but he really was very cute, and watching him come and go was pretty entertaining – I think he lives under our neighbour’s shed. Soon I was greeting him from inside, me working at the table while he sat just outside the patio door, doing his tomato thing or chirping away.
Recently he started running back and forth a bit with a tomato in each cheek, and I started to worry that he was using the tomatoes to stock up for winter. Surely rotten tomatoes were not going to sustain the little guy all winter long. I was worried. I had some old raw sunflower seeds leftover from feeding the birds in the woods and I put them out his step, and when he found them it was like the Biggest Party Ever – eating! Filling cheeks! Trying to eat with full cheeks! Trying to carry everything at once! ADORABLE.
When the sunflower seeds were gone I actually went and picked up a handful of raw peanuts from the bulk section at the Superstore. They were a hit.
I have so far strongly resisted the kids’ requests to capture the chipmunk and bring him inside to live with us forever. But it’s kind of nice to have a little furry buddy around here. Someone to take care of.
Speaking of taking care of people, it’s been a weird fall for me so far. I’ve been noticing how the kids need less of me all of a sudden. I am still, for example, walking over to the school daily for dismissal and walk-home time. But now that Gal Smiley is in Grade 6 and the Captain is in Grade 7, they are mostly walking home at the end of the day with their friends. They used to come and “check in” with me before heading home – their own request, not my rule – but this weekend the Captain told me I don’t need to wait for him anymore, because he can just make his own way home. Little Miss Sunshine was home sick last week, and at pickup time we headed over to the school, only to find out both of the older two were walking home with friends, so then the little one and I just turned around and came back home.
It was like I didn’t need to go over at all. That’s kind of a big deal.
There’s been other little things too, like leaving various combinations of kids home alone while I run out to the store, or asking them to do their homework and having them just going off and doing it with no supervision or nagging or checking in. We are watching a few “grown up” TV shows with the older two now and we are right on the cusp of me going to bed before them – which might be weird considering they still like to be tucked in at night, but we’ll sort something out. Maybe they’ll be the ones doing the tucking in, in a year or two.
With the kids getting older and making it known that they are older, I’ve been thinking about changing things up around here. Maybe I should give up the design business and get a real office job. Maybe I should take some training and take on a new career. Maybe I should write a book. Maybe I should take care of myself, for a while, for a change.
But for now, I’ll just think about the chipmunk, and how someone small out there needs a little help, and how winter is coming for all of us, and sometimes it’s enough just to get through.