Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vehicular Squirrelicide ***

A squirrel darted into the road, just as I was pulling away from our mailbox the other day. He was a squirrel of very little brain. They're all squirrels of very little brain [With apologies to Lone Gray!] They run out into the road, see your car, stop, overcome by indecision, dither a moment, change direction, stop again, and then, at the worst possible moment, run right under your wheels. Sometimes, miraculously, they run between the wheels and dash to safety....Not this one.

Dead Squirrel by idoru45
Dead Squirrel, a photo by idoru45 on Flickr.

My heart sank when I heard the small, sickening "Thunk!"

"Oh no!" I wailed when I saw him in the rear view mirror, lying there, legs frantically kicking.


Squirrels are plentiful. Not an endangered species in these parts, but I hate to hurt anything. Well, almost......I am completely cold blooded about mosquitoes. Sentient beings are one thing, mosquitoes quite another.

Tears of remorse squirted from my eyes as I willed him to regain his footing and run off into the grass. It didn't happen. He was a goner. When I reached my driveway, I turned around and drove back to the scene of the crime, hoping that he would no longer be twitching. If I had killed him I wanted it to have been swift. There was no twitching. He was lying perfectly still, eyes staring, blood oozing from his mouth. But at least he wasn't a little one. I wouldn't have a squirrel mother's broken heart on my conscience....... This fellow had been around a while, buried a lot of nuts. He might even have been the Cheeky Charlie who climbs on the pool screen and chatters insolently at El Gato. If you blocked out his bushy tail, he looked very much like a rat. Which only made me feel a tiny bit better. If it was his day to die I'd have much preferred not to have been the instrument.

Glumly, I drove home.

Roadkill is a fact of life here. We live in an area that, fifty years ago, was completely wild. We frequently see possums, armadillos, gopher tortoises [these are the most heart breaking,] squirrels, and, recently, a bunny, lying by the side of the road, having come out on the losing end of a spat with a bigger creature, one made of chrome and steel. I always feel a pang of shame when I see them, as this was their habitat long before it was ours.

Nature is so practical and efficient though, it never takes long for roving bands of buzzards [I think of them as Men in Black--nature's sanitation crew] to find the roadkill and clean it up. When I drove by the mailboxes the next day the squirrel was gone. I know the county doesn't work that fast!

In the long run, one less squirrel in the world won't cause me to sleep less soundly [Sorry Calvin!] I just don't want to be the one culling the herd.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Forty One And Counting.....

It's not that you're any braver in youth than in maturity, you're just less experienced and a lot more naive. What? Listen to cautionary tales from your elders---old fossils! Of course I'd never have said so, but come on, my parents were in their fifties, ancient! What could they possibly know about being young and "in love"? For that matter, what did I know about any of that? But I was an expert, based on? Grimm's Fairy Tales? My vast [not!]experience with the opposite sex? The fact that I'd read every word of Archbishop Fulton Sheen's advice to lovelorn youth as serialized in the Sunday Independent? How is it possible to think oneself such an expert when one isn't? Youth. That must be the answer. A commodity, according to my father, wasted on the young! They weren't pushy, those ancient Irish parents of mine. Careful to acknowledge my grown-up-edness. Aware, perhaps, that too much protest would make us more determined. Not that that stopped the parents of the Foreigner. They protested long and loudly, even threatening to boycott the whole event. Which merely served to make their son dig his heels in all the harder. Still, a few tentative "Are you sures?" Brushed aside by Miss Know-It-All's "Of course!"

The day dawned  beautiful and sunshiny. Sixteen year old Blister looked stunning in pink, her hair a glossy brown mane. Mother looked every inch "mother of the bride" in a stylish cream dress, every hair coaxed into it's assigned place under her elegant little hat. Dad looked as ever, one of Nature's Gentlemen, lean as a thoroughbred, ears protruding, togged out in his best suit. Brother was scrubbed to beyond-recognition shininess, Gentleman's Quarterly how are you, in a collared shirt and tie and smart suit. Handsome Fr. Neville swished about in his soutane and his Cary Grant dimples, making all the ladies swoon, and curse Rome for making  priests celibate.......All the aunts and uncles were in from the country, in their Sunday best, eager to get a good look at "the Foreigner." The Foreigner himself  looked very spiffy in his double-breasted, dove-grey suit and his shiny new wing tips, which glisten still in his closet today, worn just the once! Behind his birth control glasses, the brown eyes that had been my undoing were as brown and handsome as ever. But, did they even know each other, these two who were about to promise for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, 'til death do us part? When the dust settled and the guests were gone, would they be tongue-tied and lost for words?

Dad made a big to-do of surreptitiously slipping a little satin draw-string purse into my hand at the reception. It contained several large, heavy crowns, old coins not in general circulation. They were a symbolic dowry, since Dad didn't have a stable of race horses, or forty head of Herefords to bestow on the Foreigner for taking me off his hands. They never made it out of The Old Ground. Because it was the height of foolishness to give them to me in the first place, in my excited and scatterbrained state. I often wonder who found them and if they felt good about keeping them....

And a week later, blithely kissing Mum and Dad goodbye at Shannon Airport, as though we were merely flying off to an adjacent county instead of the other side of the world and the rest of our lives, pretty much without them.

Who can put an old head on young shoulders? And would it even be wise, were it possible? Would the human race die out without the foolhardiness, innocence/ignorance, reckless abandon of youth?
Is it love that makes the world go around? Or is it sticking with the promises you made, gritting your teeth when the going gets tough, hanging in there when all you really want to do is run home, screaming, to mum and dad..........? Then one day, forty one years later, you find yourself sitting on the couch, blogging about it, trying to see the big picture, and you realize that now you are the ancient, irrelevant parent, you are the one anxious for them to choose wisely, you are the one trying not to be pushy, but asking tentatively "Are you sure?" The truth is no-one is ever sure. Life is like a swimming pool.  You just have to close your eyes and plunge in.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We Weren't Looking For It, Trouble Just Found Us!

caged lion by insane photoholic
caged lion, a photo by insane photoholic on Flickr.

I feel like a lion in a cage. Usually I enjoy being alone. I have the house to myself. The Bean and GF left for the beach, a last grab for summer fun before classes start on Monday. It feels abnormal for the Fall semester of university to start in August, but this is Florida, and this is how they do it here, and no-one is interested anyway whether I think it's normal or not.

The heavens opened shortly after they left and I stood at the window and watched the deluge. After it spent itself, and the sun came out again, I still stood, watching large, stray drops plonk onto the pool surface and ripple out in liquid circles 'til they met each other and died.......

We've had our share of excitement here this past week, God knows. You'd think I'd be glad of the quiet and not be so restless!. Coming home from the usual visit to the Ancient One, one evening last week, we were on the main road, with the right of way. A shiny new red car was stopped at a stop sign to the right of the intersection we were approaching, but as we came into the intersection the red car started coming across! The Bean managed to swerve so that the red car, when it hit us, hit the back passenger side of his car and not the front where I was sitting. No-one was hurt, thank goodness, but our hearts were pounding. A cop car was cruising through the neighbourhood just as we got out of our cars, so no call had to be made, he was right there. A little bantam rooster of a lady got out of the red car, all consternation, twittering a mile a minute about her brand new car, and she never saw us and the sun was in her eyes and oh my poor aged aunt I just picked her up and we were going for ice cream, are you alright auntie? Auntie was sitting impassively in the front seat, watching the shenanigans through hooded eyes, her aged face an expressionless mask, beneath her crown of immaculately combed and sprayed hair. She appeared to be unhurt, but her niece continued to twitter, while the nice policeman took care of the police report. He made soothing noises at her but pointed out the pertinent fact, setting sun in your eyes notwithstanding, you did hit him ma'am, even though we know you didn't intend to.The twittering continued unabated while red ants tried to attack us on the grassy verge, which put her in mind of her husband's friend who didn't have his epi pen with him, got bitten by red ants, swelled up and died, such a tragedy! All this in a very "oi, oi" New York accent!

She was a nice lady and it's too bad she and her aged aunt didn't manage to go out that night for ice cream without causing themselves and us so much trouble. It's been back and forth with insurance companies for several days, but now it's all ironed out. Her insurance is taking care of everything, though they did, inexplicably, deem the Bean's car to be a total loss! Whaddyamean a total loss? It's dented for heaven's sake!

Even though it's twelve years old and has mucho mileage, it was still running well, but they estimated the damage repairs to be more than the value of the car. As he emptied out all his personal stuff from it last evening he looked very sad. You know how attached guys get to their vehicles.......So, he'll be looking for a new [to him] vehicle as soon as they send him a check.

Whew! Meanwhile they've provided him with a rental, and he just called to say they arrived safely at the beach and the sun is shining.

As much as I enjoy my own company, I'm restless today. It's Friday, so I'm going to go get a pizza and inflict myself and it on a friend who is housebound following eye surgery this morning. Hopefully no-one in a shiny new red car will hit me in the pizza joint's parking lot!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mumblings And Mutterings, All On A Summer's Day....

 I spoke to The Blister on the weekend. She had zero sympathy for my tales of killer heat since she was huddled in socks, jeans and woolly jumpers in what is passing for summer this year in Ireland. So, I'm left to mutter and mumble to myself about 95 degree weather, sopping humidity levels, afternoon lightening and thunderstorms, and weeds as high as your eye.

Summer was a delicious word fifty years ago. Summer meant  "No more Irish, No more French, No more sitting on the hard old bench!" Freedom 'til September! We didn't get sent to camp, not for soccer, not for gymnastics, not for dance, not for violin. Our days were our own. After stuffing us full of porridge, or, if she was feeling indulgent, Cornflakes, our mother would wave us out the door to play. We had to report back for lunch at midday and teatime at six. We were expected to behave ourselves and not draw the neighbours on her....Other than that....freedom! Onto the bike and off down to the North Circular Road.

Patty S's garden stretched back for what seemed like miles behind her house. We played Cops and Robbers, and Wild Indians, and then, tired of how the boys were bossy and wouldn't play fair, we'd repair to our "club house" at the bottom of Jane W's garden. It probably looked like a makeshift lean-to, but we had pride of buildership, especially when the inevitable rains came and our clubhouse kept us dry, albeit cramped like tinned sardines!  Repairing to anyone's house was not an option. The houses were too small and there was too much of a raggle-taggle team of us for any of the mothers to gladly grant us entry. Patty's mother had been a raven-haired beauty in her youth, but was now wracked with arthritis. She would come to the door occasionally, but we were never invited in. Jane's mother was English, and stylish, and made me blush when she admired a waste paper basket I'd made from a cardboard box and wall paper. Nobody at my house noticed that I had a talent for such things. Who knows how different life might have been had Jane's mother been my mother, which I devoutly wished were the case. Which wasn't very fair to my mother who was overwhelmed with the hand life had dealt her and struggling to get through the days with my brother; but when you're young you only see things from your own perspective. And I wanted a mother who was stylish and kind, smiled when she spoke to you and took the time to really look at, and appreciate, what you had made. The lovely English accent didn't hurt either. We were supposed to hate the English, but we met so few of them, they were more a subject of awe and fascination when we did.

Some summers we were transported to the seaside at Ballybunion for a couple of glorious weeks. We rented the same house each time and once my grandmother, from my father's side, came to visit us there for a few days. I remember walking along the road to the beach with her, just the two of us. She was a tall, tweedy woman and I had the temerity to ask her how old my daddy was. She loftily informed me that he was as old as his tongue and a little bit older than his teeth.... Talk about a conversation killer. I was mortified. Undoubtedly she thought children should speak only when spoken to, and certainly should not ask saucy questions. I'm not sure if I met her again before she died, which she did before I was ten. I do remember sitting in her garden having tea once. I was very impressed that the milk was in a silver jug but I have no recollection of any conversation. Maybe by then I had learned to keep mum! When we'd come back from the seaside, our house and street and garden seemed to have shrunk, we'd grown so used, in a short time, to wide open expanses of beach and Atlantic!

Eventually summer rolled on into September, school started again, new books had to be covered, new pencils sharpened, school shoes polished every night [whether you wanted to or not! Does anyone polish shoes anymore?] and before long, summer seemed like a distant dream.

Here, summer is to be endured;  ways must be found to muddle through so we can get to the beautiful days of Autumn, Winter and Spring ! If you played Cops and Robbers in this heat you'd end up for sure in the Emergency Room. If you played Wild Indians, ditto. You'd also have people lecturing you about racial sensitivity and political correctness. And if you played either of these games at my age they'd cart you off to the psych ward! I'm trying to stay cool, trying not to pace. I don't know when I last made a waste paper basket from wallpaper and a cardboard box, but I think Jane W's mum would love the quilt I'm currently working on!