A Squirrelly Christmas!
The porch swing squeaked as I rocked on my back deck. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the sunrise, a marbled canvass of gold and coral. The brisk December air whipped around me, and I tightened the belt of my blue chenille robe.
A cup of coffee and the paper are my usual companions in the early morning. I finished the classifieds and flipped over to peruse all the great, once-in-a-lifetime Christmas sales. Content in the thought I could avoid those madhouse crowds, I smiled. My wrapped gifts sat nestled under the tree in the den. The hot sip of coffee warmed me, and as I gloried in my wise accomplishments, something caught my eye.
In one of the large oak trees, a squirrel ran down the side. My husband feeds the all the backyard visitors—birds, squirrels, rabbits. It’s normal to see them gather to eat corn and seed in our mini-forest. However, the actions of this one little creature intrigued me. I put down the newspaper.
The squirrel approached, a few steps at a time, eyes open wide, its head moving from side to side. At the edge of the lowest tier of the deck, it ducked down. A few minutes later, it ran to the middle of the yard, zipped back to the tree, and straight up.
What did I just see? Something green protruded from its mouth as it sprinted toward a visible nest in the old oak. Probably a twig with a cluster of leaves, although most are russet or maroon by now. I dismissed the thought and headed inside to get ready for work.
The next morning, I followed my normal routine, coffee, the paper, the deck. Again, the squirrel, which I decided to nickname Jiffy, made an appearance. It scampered down and back to the edge of my deck. After a little delay, it jetted off. This time, I could see it carried something red back to the tree. Red? As hard as the little squirrel worked, it had to be a female. Perhaps Jiffy found a piece of trash to add to the décor of her nest. Once more my job beckoned, and I left.
The weekend arrived. Saturday, I hurried to get my coffee and paper, intent not to miss Jiffy’s agenda. Like clockwork, she ran down the tree and disappeared. Her next retrieval produced a shiny blue item. Maybe I should record this squirrel’s daily itinerary and send it in for millions to view on television. I could definitely use $10,000.00 in prize money right here at Christmas.
At supper that night, I told my husband, Marty, about Jiffy’s antics. “It’s the cutest thing to watch. She hurries to the deck and, in ten or fifteen minutes, I see her head appear before she retreats running full blast. Each time she has something bright colored.”
Marty buttered a hot biscuit. “Can’t you see what it is she takes up the tree?”
“No, she goes at such a quick pace, but it’s always colorful.”
“She disappears under our deck?”
“From where I sit in the swing, it appears so, but she could run around to the side.”
Marty shook his head. “I hope she doesn’t destroy something like the insulation. I don’t want to have to crawl under the house in this cold weather.”
“Are you okay?” Marty reached over and put a hand on my shoulder.
He laughed aloud. “You worry about everything, Jenny. If Jiffy is pregnant, she will know how to handle it, trust me.” He got up from the table and put his plate in the dishwasher. “By the way, aren’t you ready to open the gifts? It’s Christmas Eve, you know.”
Even though preoccupied with the realization Jiffy could be cold and alone when she gave birth, I smiled. “Yes, sweetheart. Let me make us some hot apple cider, and I’ll meet you in the den. We always watch ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ first, okay?”
“Whatever you say, honey.” Marty kissed my cheek and left the room.
While I cleared the table, my head filled with thoughts of poor pregnant Jiffy. Maybe I could put some old pieces of cloth on the deck to comfort her. Perhaps an old sweater would help ward off the cold. There are several pairs of worn-out socks in Marty’s drawer, too.
The glow of from the fireplace danced on Marty’s face as we snuggled on the couch. A tear ran down my cheek, and I sniffed.
“You know how this old movie ends, why do you always cry?” He pulled me closer. “Let’s open our gifts.”
If he only knew, my emotional state is over a squirrel. I decided to forget about Jiffy…for a little while.
Multi-colored paper and bows littered the den as we thrilled over our goodies.
“Here sweetheart.” Marty handed me a long, small box.
I took my time opening it to build the drama. “Oh honey, it’s beautiful, I love it.” I held up a ruby-encrusted necklace, delighted over my husband’s generosity. In front of the mirror, my mind raced as the stones twinkled like stars. Jiffy would really like the way this sparkles.
“You, too.” Marty kissed me goodnight and turned over.
Moments later, I sat straight up in bed. “What is that noise? Did you hear that?”
I let out a deep sigh and plopped back down. “Yeah, yeah, Santa, of course.
The aroma of coffee and bacon brought me out of a deep sleep. I went downstairs to the kitchen—and screamed. In the middle of the room, a small tin can blazed with fire. Tiny squirrels, some dressed in blue, others dressed in pink, huddled around crying.
I dropped to my knees. “Oh my God! What happened?”
“Where’s Jiffy? She has to be somewhere around here. Have you looked in your nest? Maybe she is under the deck. Did everyone look under the deck? She loves to go under…”
“Jenny, it’s a dream. You’re talking in your sleep.”
I sat up and looked at the clock. The neon numbers blared in the darkness of our bedroom.
Christmas Day brought a wonderful and frightening gift…snow. A lacy pattern of flakes fell on the deck and covered everything in a coat of white. What would poor Jiffy do now? She might freeze to death in the bad weather. What would happen to her babies?
The plump turkey sat in the middle of our dining room table next to the usual dishes of dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean salad, and sweet potatoes. Marty carved the huge bird.
“Hand me your plate, and I’ll give you a slice,” he said.
Without emotion, I handed over my plate.
“Jenny, are you thinking about that squirrel again?” Marty grabbed the sweet potatoes.
“Honey, I can’t help it. There is snow on the ground. We’re in a nice warm house, she’s cold and alone.”
Instead of laughing at me, he came over and gave me a hug. “I fall more in love with you every day. Jiffy is lucky to have such a friend. Please don’t worry anymore though. Animals have a natural instinct to survive, it’s God-given.”
I took my husband’s wise advice and let the Jiffy conundrum dissolve from my thoughts for a few days.
The tradition in our family is to wait until New Year’s Day to take down the Christmas tree and outside decorations. After we finished storing things away in the attic, I noticed an open box of ornaments; several were missing. How is that possible?
Tired, I sat down in an old stuffed chair, threw one of my grandmother’s quilts over my lap, and closed my eyes until I heard an unusual sound. In a flash, Jiffy appeared through an open vent and dashed across the floor to the box. Her gnarled little hands tugged on a glass ball until it popped out of the holder. She placed it in her mouth and escaped the way she came in. It was Christmas ornaments I saw her carrying back to her nest.
After I felt sure she was gone, I jumped up and ran downstairs. “Marty, Marty, hit the deck.”
“What?’ He ran after me.
Outside, we watched our little thief flee across the grass and up the oak tree, a silver ball in her mouth.
Marty rubbed his forehead. “All I can say is—we’ve had a very, merry squirrelly Christmas.”