4.30.2008

Cliche-ville


All the cliches are true. When you first made an appearance on the scene, I wanted pickles. I felt embarrassingly mainstream, but I really wanted them. I thought it would last forever. I even found a special expensive homemade kind of pickle at Formaggio Kitchen. Now I'm over pickles and onto queasiness. I had orange sherbert and ginger snaps for breakfast this morning. Doesn't that sound like fun? It really IS fun, it's fun and novel and overwhelming and interesting and hopeful and strange and human. I was too queasy to sleep past 3am. And that was hours after your dad woke me up talking in his sleep, saying, "Is there anything I can get you?" "No sweetie!" I said, charmed that he would sleep-talk so considerately. Eventually I moved onto the couch with Hazelnut to watch PBS and stop worrying that I was going to throw up in our bedroom. Sorry, but that cliche turns out to be true, too.

I was describing the constant queasiness to Jessica over phone, and she said, "That sounds awful! How long has this been going on?" "All week!" I said indignantly, and then realized that it was only partway through Tuesday. Just like babies develop fast, surprisingly fast (or so I've heard), a pregnancy seems to change and develop fast, surprisingly fast, too. Tomorrow I'll be at six weeks, halfway through my first trimester. Six more weeks until the hormones surge slows, things get easier, and I can tell people. Six weeks...seems so long and not so long, all at the same time. I read that you are growing from the size of a nail head to a blueberry this week. Frankly, an orange seed with a heart the size of a poppyseed sounds bigger than that, but whatevs. Hope you can stick it out.

4.29.2008

Getting Cuter

I called Fran yesterday. Nervously. "I dropped off a little squirrel a few weeks ago....just wanted to see if...he's.....doing OK?" (read: Is he alive? Tell me now tell me now!)

"Oh I've been MEANING to call you! He's doing wonderfully!"

(Long exhale.)

"In fact, he's in a cage with four other little squirrels around his age and they have the best time. They are SO CUTE right now, let me tell you. I keep meaning to take a picture of the five of them to send to you, but they just won't sit still for a picture!"

I can imagine. I feel like he's a far cry from that cold little lump I held on a frigid Monday morning. That must just be like a bad dream for him now. Five baby squirrels in Groton! Every day must be a wild ride.

4.26.2008

So, We Hear You've Got a Tail

Your dad and I sat around on the porch this week in the hot weather, arguing about whether you were the size of a peppercorn OR if you were, instead, the size of an orange seed, with a heart the size of a poppyseed. Eventually, we had to catch ourselves and laugh. That night, I had a dream that I was telling my friend Kramer about you at a rooftop party in New York and he was very happy for all three of us. We don't know if you're going to stick around or not, so we're holding off on buying you the camo shoes and the baby pumas and all that. But if you stick it out to sit on the porch with us, we can at least promise you that your feet are going to look pretty rockin.

I told my personal trainer about you and he was especially thrilled to hear that you have a tail, which seems like a milestone to me and weirdly human. I think only five people know about you.

Today I taught a cardio class based on swordmanship to a class of one, a lawyer who had been stressed alot of her life and hadn't exercised since 1992. Holding wooden blades, we sliced and diced our imaginary opponents to a soundtrack of tribal music until she said she was so winded she was feeling dizzy. Then we did abs. Later Peaches and I pal-ed around Gore and Lyman Estates, realized that sheep really ARE boring herd animals, ("you really ARE sheep," I told them, as they bleated and clustered together) and then saw "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guatanamo Bay" at the Capitol in Arlington. Not a five-star like its predecessor, but we did laugh the whole way through. Especially at Harold looking very angsty in the Y2K? shirt. I wonder if you'll like that some day. I hope you're just befuddled by all the pot jokes, though. You'll probably be more befuddled by a reference to Y2K, which is awesome.

I've been protecting my bloodstream for you by using a fancy, expensive French soap. My old soap could apparently cause birth defects, which just seems creepy anyway. The new soap isn't even soap, since the French don't like soap. It's actually sage mousse. Seriously. It's lovely. I do still seem to be breaking out, though. Just a little.

Anyway, how's that tail treating you? Tomorrow it's all about BOSU class and muscle conditioning. My students don't know about you yet, but I do get winded more easily and I wonder if they notice. That's why it's nice to be the teacher: I can just walk around and hand out orders! Kinda like parenting, right? Ha, ha. JK. Hope it's all OK in there.

4.07.2008

Post #560: Baby Squirrel




Click on pics for closer view.

I woke up alone. Blue is in London, and I lay in bed aimlessly for 45 minutes, feeling alone. Then I remembered I wasn't. Before he left, a Sunday afternoon project cleaning the eaves had turned up an unexpected find. Soon I was out of bed and eating cereal. The upstairs neighbors, in their steady mode of casual, self-obsessed destruction, had let their big dog out once again to tear around our postage stamp backyard. I stood obstinately on the porch to eat my cereal and stare at the dog. I don't mind being inconvenient. The five year old child asked me questions while his mother hid in the dark stairwell in her pajamas.

"What is all this paper doing all over the yard?"

"It's from a baby squirrel nest," I told him. "We took the nest apart before realizing he was in there."

"Is the baby squirrel OK?"

"I don't know. We are hoping that his mom will find him where we left him overnight."

"Where did you leave him?"

"On top of the garage."

"What are you eating?"

"What do you think?"

"Cereal."

Silence. The mom's voice, echoing from the dark stairwell, piped up with a charming story about the nest of baby squirrels that lived on her Manhattan terrace until the big dog at my feet "unfortunately discovered it."

"Yup, that's what I'm worried about right now," I said.

"Oh!" She dragged the dog inside by the collar. I finished my cereal.

I waited two hours while the sun rose and squirrels ran around on top of the fence. Hoping.

At 9:40 I climbed up that fence to the garage. Alarm, alarm, alarm. The little squirrel that had been squealing with such vigor yesterday was under the bedding, badly shriveled, cold, and silent. He was completely limp, but not stiff. That was good.

Inside, cupping the phone with my shoulder, running hot water for the hot water bottle as I held his little body, fleas walked across his perfect little head. I'd called a goddess in Groton named Fran (978-448-2812). "I'll take him, but I don't know if you want to drive all the way to Groton." "I do. I'm coming right now," I said. "Listen," she said, "before you do anything else, I want you to get him warm. He'll get fed today...but you have GOT to get that baby WARM. If he's not warm, his metabolism will be too slow to eat anyway."


"He's so cold," I said. His chest felt deeply cold; his head; his belly; all the places you'd want a baby to be warm; all those places were cold. Why did we leave him out all night? How stupid could I have been?

"Are his eyes open?" she asked.

"No."

"Does he have fur?"

"Yes."

"You can get him warm. Just don't put his skin right on the water bottle. Put a T-shirt or something in between him and the heat. He has fragile skin, even with the fur."

My cat looked at me resentfully from her spot on the floor as I stroked his head and lay him on the cloth-covered hot water bottle. In a few minutes, I could actually see him breathing. It was hard to believe. I microwaved towels to get them warm and tucked them around him, flipping him side, to side, to back, to front, for maximum heating. Soon he was stretching and cooing and gurgling like a human baby. I picked him up. He fit right into the palm of my hand. He grabbed his big bottom feet in his perfectly formed little hands. He began to suck on his toe. "Fran?" I said into the phone. "I'm coming right now. He's hungry."

On the drive out on 2 the sun was out and the heat was on full blast. I held him the whole way. I put him in my left hand to better switch gears with my right. Figured my knee could handle the steering. We listened to classical music. In the rotary by Concord State Prison he stretched all four legs out wide, flipped over and gripped my thumb. He yawned and tried to suck on my ring. He was a distracting passenger, but I didn't mind the company. He was cute, for one thing, and alive, for another, which was a plus.

We crossed into the Groton town line. "This is your new home," I said. "Looks like a pretty good place for a squirrel. Look at the trees." He flipped his long tail around in a circle. It was a big, beautiful house. A lovely woman met me at the door. Fran smiled and ushered me into a basement office where a little bin filled with blankets waited under a light and atop a heating pad.

I put him into the blankets and introduced myself. She looked the small man over, both sides, top and bottom.

"Oh, he's badly dehydrated. But he'll be OK. He's about three weeks old," she said. She gave me a form to fill out. At the bottom, it had a space for a donation. I took out my wallet and put all the cash I had on the table. "You don't have to, you know," she said, and I did know. But I wanted to. We destroyed his home, separated him from his mom and then nearly killed him. And I was grateful. I barely had time to drive him to Groton, let alone care for him. She looked at the amount. $46.00. She laughed. "Just so you know, that is exactly the amount it takes to raise a baby squirrel from infancy to release stage at thirteen weeks."

"$46.00?"

"That's right."

"Well, that's perfect," I said, "it's all I have."

"He could be with cagemates as soon as tonight." "Other squirrels?" I asked gleefully. Fran nodded. Just two hours ago I was pretty sure he was going to die, but now he already had friends.

She's been rehabbing animals for 15 years. She's the only person the animals see, which helps them keep a healthy respect about people, cats, and dogs. Over time they migrate to a big outdoor cage, where she eventually keeps the cage door open, and lets them come and go as they please. Eventually they don't need her to feed them anymore, and they just take off.

"It's rewarding, yes...release day is wonderful. Unless, that is, you release a bird after months of tending to its injuries, and almost immediately see it get caught and eaten by hawk. That happens. It's Nature."

"There just aren' t enough rehabbers. We work hard to recruit them, but a lot of people try it and just can't keep doing it. The ones who succeed at it are the ones who come to us and just won't let us go until we've taught them everything we know."

"It can be tough, because you see the worst of people. A man called me last night at 11pm with a small mammal he'd found and brought inside---and told me to come get it. If you won't come get it, he said, I'm going to throw it outside in the cold. 'I wish you wouldn't do that,' I said. 'At least put it in a box with a warm blanket.' No, I won't, that man said."

Fran and I shook our heads. Some people.

"But you see great sides of people, too. So many people do try to help animals. It's good they call me. There is a lot to know---it's why I go to conferences all the time! I often see animals fed with cow's milk...bread soaked with cow's milk!"

"Hey, that's just what I was going to feed him!" I said.

"That would have actually been pretty bad," she said. "He's going to get a specialized formula for baby squirrels---it costs $10 a pound." I knew I got him to the right place. I silently congratulated myself as I walked out. In the driveway, I met a radiant older gentleman in muddy galoshes. He had light emanating from him. "This is Jack, my chief collector."

"Let me guess," he said. "You brought in an elephant." As if to confirm that I liked him.

"You got it!"

Driving home, I thought about how my coach says that things either resonate with you, or they don't, and you should move toward the things that do. Rehabbing wildlife resonates with me. In another time, another life inside of this one, the one where we live in Vermont or Western MA, I can see us listed as rehabbers, deftly dealing with people, getting them out of the way, and getting more little ones over that hurdle of Breathing When Horribly Cold. I only wish we'd brought Goz to a professional. At the time, the phone calls I made were answered by people who said that geese don't get rehabbed...but Fran would have known what to do.

I did a U-turn on 119 after I passed a place called Johnson's Dairy. It was noon and the clam roll was calling to me. "Whole-belly clams?" asked the teenager behind the counter. "I think so," I said, and sat down at a log table kitty corner to a lovely old woman who was finishing her fries. I was the youngest customer by a good forty years. Groton is not a hip neighborhood, but the clams rolls are good. I looked at the pile of fried whole clams dwarfing a white hot dug bun, and eyed the accompanying mayonnaise in a tube. I looked at the sweet old lady. "Looks good!" she said. "Sure is a lot!" I told her. We laughed. Somehow I managed to finish it.