Boy had Nutcracker practice today, a Saturday: a party scene rehearsal followed by the first full run through. Four hours. It’s cold again, so we thought that Girl would just stay home with Papa while I dropped Boy off and did some errands. Picking up a library book, buying Advent chocolates, getting our food order. Then Papa could go retrieve him at 3. But the day ended up much stranger than we envisaged.
First, I discovered that all (ALL!) of my pants were in the wash, literally, wet, together, in the washing machine. I have mentioned how long it takes to dry things in our dryer. All I had were summer pants and it was cold. (That would soon come to matter so little that I ended up wearing cropped length black summer pants with socks and clogs all day. In front of God and everyone.) So Papa volunteered to bring Boy to ballet. But then, Papa called me from the ballet school and said they couldn’t find his ballet shoes. We never, never, take the bags with the kids’ shoes out of the car, to avoid ever forgetting them. They searched all over the car, asked if the bag was in the school’s lost and found, and as a last resort chose a pair out of the used shoe bin for Boy to wear. They were a little small, but to our mind better than no shoes. But Boy, who doesn’t like curve balls, first refused to wear any shoes but his own, and then did so only after crying.
Only when Papa got home and we talked about things did we realize that I hadn’t locked the van last night, and we’d been robbed. Our GPS was gone. And the bags with the kids’ ballet shoes. And I’m sure some other things that we’ll figure out later. Papa walked around the neighborhood and found Girl’s shoes on the sidewalk down the street. Her bag later turned up in the playground. But Boy’s things are nowhere to be found.
When I brought him his lunch I had to tell him what had happened. His eyes teared up, and he seemed confused. Who would want to steal his shoes? Why? Were they going to sell them? Telling him that the people who’d done this, who were probably kids, were just grabbing bags to look for valuables later and didn’t care about his shoes or bag, and would probably just throw them away, wasn’t going to make sense. Because both things are very valuable to Boy. Another mom was very nice and helped me talk to him about this new notion of theft; I said to try not to be angry, because whoever did this probably doesn’t have much, and their life probably isn’t going all that well. We have so much, and no one was hurt.
While Boy was in the run through, I came home and tried to clean up a little, then went to the library and the food store for our order. (Advent chocolates will just have to wait.)
On the ride home Boy said that he really just wanted his bag back. I said I understood, and I do. It was only a bag from the dollar store, green with a blue star, but we’d bought it before his first class when he was four, and he’d been carrying his ballet shoes in it ever since. I told him it was okay to cry. He said was still kind of mad, and when I said that was okay, too, he replied, But you told me not to be angry.
No, I said, I said to try not to be angry, but it’s okay if you still are. Oh, he said. Those scoundrels! he said.
When we got back I checked my messages, and saw that a neighbor had seen a red bag at the park matching the description of Girl’s. (This bag is one that my parents bought for Girl while aboard the QEII, in its gift shop, on a cruise to England. You might say that it is the official small bag of the QEII, and very jazzy.) I hustled down to the park with the dog and Boy in tow (he refused to stay home), retrieving the bag from where it hung on a fence post. On the way back home, our next-door neighbor said there was a hurt baby squirrel on the sidewalk. Alive but unable to move.
He said he was going to just move it to the bushes, but I knew it would die.
I asked him to just hold on. I’d get a box and bring it to a wildlife rehabilitator that I know who specializes in squirrels. (We visited the squirrel lady with a tiny baby squirrel last summer, but it had very bad internal injuries, and didn’t last the day.) My neighbor carried the squirrel (by the base of the tail, which may not have helped matters much) to my yard, and I laid her in a box, then transferred her to a bigger box with a top, snuggling her into an old flannel bathrobe from the rag pile.
There’s a whole long story of that bathrobe. I think about that sometimes, the life of things, the places and people they go between before they end up, as most things eventually do, in the trash. Carrying a very injured baby squirrel to the Squirrel Lady was the last act of this particular extremely tattered bathrobe. I guess it’s a pretty good way to go out.
In any case I called the Squirrel Lady and scribbled directions to her house on an envelope. Because did I mention that our GPS was stolen?
I meant to go alone, but the whole family somehow ended up in the van, my husband driving, the squirrel in the box on my lap, Girl demanding in the back seat that I stop talking to that squirrel, because it was making her feel like I loved the squirrel more than her.
I thought, You poor squirrel. You must be terrified, though you don’t look terrified. Though you are way too still and you’re looking at me with one eye. In a box, on the highway, and that incredibly loud screechy child somewhere (way too) close. But she named you ‘Nutty’ if that makes you feel any better. Well, ‘Nutty II’ actually. Nutty I was the first squirrel we tried to rescue. That went really badly. I’m sorry, Nutty II, we’re doing our best. We don’t always act the way we’d like, even when we are trying to save baby animals.
But we found Squirrel Lady’s house, and she ushered me inside and lifted Nutty II out of the box. Squirrels really like this lady. I don’t know how she does it, how they know she’s cool. Nutty II just kind of lay on her arm. But Squirrel Lady said she thinks her back might be broken. She says she’ll warm her up and see what she can do. But she might need to euthanize her. I think, better that than freezing to death in the bushes. She’ll be warm, she’ll be fed and snuggled into one of the squirrel sacks that other ladies sew for Squirrel Lady.
I get back in the van and deliver the bad news. Well, equivocal news. Squirrel Lady will keep us posted.
We don’t eat out at restaurants, as a rule, even on busy days. To have enough money to make it to the end of the month, I really have to make dinner every night. From scratch, because convenience foods are also too expensive. We buy local foods, we buy organic foods, we buy meat from local farms, we have a CSA, we have milk delivered in glass bottles. We take our food ethics seriously, and it comes at a price. We split portions of meat four ways. We don’t buy frozen enchiladas to throw in the microwave. (We also don’t have a microwave.) We rarely have snack foods like chips or crackers (but I do make a LOT of popcorn). We don’t get to eat out. But except in really tight periods, Papa picks up fast food once a month and we eat at home, usually in front of a movie. Fries, burgers, chicken fingers, shakes, sometimes a pizza. It usually costs $20.
Driving home in the dark, we thought maybe tonight should be that night. The beans I had put on the stove to soak were still sitting there, uncooked. No meat was thawed. Nobody was excited about fried eggs on rice and greens. It was getting late. And then we remembered that a Moe’s (a smallish Mexican food chain) had opened in our neighborhood shopping plaza, the one we walk to sometimes. We thought, what the hell? Let’s eat there. And we did. It was great. It turns out that Moe’s has a 20% military discount on Saturdays. The food is cheap and good. Boy got to tell the guy what to put on his (tiny) burrito just like his Dad did. They got to pick out juice boxes and cookies. They picked a booth. I showed Boy how to make a tin foil nest for his burrito, just like Papa. We had chips and salsa and sweet tea and we laughed and chatted.
Papa and I told Boy stories of something special that got stolen from each of us when we were kids. Not with any particular message in mind, just to tell him. Love Will Tear Us Apart played on the Moe’s sound system and I told them that had been my favorite song for years when I was a kid. Joy Division. Boy said it was his favorite song, too. I said, I can play it for you at home. Boy said, I’d really like that. Girl said, this is my first favorite song, but my second favorite song is still I’m So Fancy.
Dinner cost $20.
You don’t know at the beginning of the day where you’re going to be at the end of it.
We got home to an update from Squirrel Lady. Nutty ll had eaten a little, and moved a little. She was hopeful.
We all know that baby squirrel is probably going to die, and we understand how little it matters. But then again maybe it won’t, and maybe it does, a little.