I used to have daydreams about which town would claim me. As a twelve-year-old who hoped to someday see her name in lights, I envisioned signs welcoming visitors to Small Town, IN or Small Town, MN with:
WELCOME TO (whatever city claims me)
Home of Claire Ellen
My upbringing was split between these two towns as we followed Dad to new camping opportunities. Sometimes I would grapple with the decision about which place I most wanted to claim me. It always ended up being Minnesota, even though over the years Indiana has become my true home. Somehow I developed relationships with the lakes, trees, and wildlife of Minnesota that far outweighed the relationships I developed with actual people during my formative years in Indiana.
Our small wood cabin in Minnesota surrounded by pines and quaking aspens, butting up to Sturgeon Lake, was what some would call a rodent-infested dwelling, but my memories are more like tales from a children’s fairy tale. The squirrels helped tuck me in at night as they peered down at me from their home in the fluorescent lights in my bedroom. The flying squirrel that swung from window valance to window valance in the living room was more carnival than cause for alarm. After endless nights of sleeping on a top bunk listening to the tiny scraping of squirrel and chipmunk toenails on the drop-panel ceiling above my head, I came to accept them as part of the territory — just another one of life’s details.
So, how is it now that I see squirrels as my foes? Currently I’m trying to balance my fairy tale-like memories with the turf battle going on in our garden. Each time I go out to the bed to check the fruits of our efforts, I find butternut squash with tiny teeth marks of flesh carved out. At first, I blamed it on our dog’s toenails from the times he lurched madly through the back patch on the scent of a tennis ball. But now I can’t fool myself anymore. The grooves continue to grow and Jack has long since stopped running through the squash for fear of the jungle it has become.
So tonight I staked out sides.
Trimmings of Jack’s hair from his summer cut are sprinkled on and around the growing squash. I’m dreaming of a chicken wire cage to contain our garden that occupies over 300 cubic feet, which is likely completely illogical and inefficient. What I really want to do is grow a patch for the squirrels and let them fill their cheeks adorably full while standing on their haunches. I want to make this work — cohabitate with them as well as we can — but I’m realizing it might not be the storybook situation I hope for.