February 24, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Puzzle

Tonight, as we got ready to welcome friends, we noticed a very still squirrel taking a nap in the middle of our street. Terrible place for a nap.

Of course I knew at once that the squirrel was dead, but D, having much less experience with such things, was going to need some convincing.

Remembering one of my partner's guiding philosophies of parenting – say yes as often as you can, and no only when you feel you must – I answered "yes" when D asked if we could go see the napping squirrel.

Except for the blood, she looked quite peaceful, and relatively unharmed. Her fur ruffled in the breeze, giving D false cause for hope, and he just couldn't seem to believe that something that looked so close to alive could be so far from it.

"Squirrels are so fast," he said, "why didn't it just run away? I don't see any holes. How could just a bonk on the head make you dead? What about the squirrel's spirit?" I don't remember wrestling with these questions as a child, although I guess I must have. D was at once fascinated to see something that was truly dead – a close inspection of the squirrel over time showed that she wasn't breathing – and sad that there was one less squirrel to watch. (We had just been talking the other day about how much fun they seem to have as they play tag around the tree trunks, and we couldn't help but wonder if the squirrel lingering in the front yard was a special friend.)

I don't like squirrels, particularly. One less squirrel in the world isn't much to me. But I had this instinct to model a deeper reverence for life, and found myself asking D if he thought it would be a good idea if we moved the squirrel out of the road, so that she wouldn't get hit by any more cars. He immediately assented.

So I put on a disposable glove, steeled myself, went back outside, and lifted up the squirrel. She was still supple, even a little warm. Now I did feel sorry. I gently carried her out of further harm's way to rest at the base of a large street tree at the edge of our property. Having seen enough up-close sadness for one day, D watched from our livingroom window, trying to work out the puzzle of life and death.

10 comments:

Becca said...

A very gentle look at a child's first brush with the puzzle of death. I think you handled that one admirably ~ and wrote about it beautifully :)

jillypoet said...

This is a beautiful piece. I was right there with you, doing all the same things with my son, who, as it happens, is also five. I just loved reading this!

sognatrice said...

A child has a special way of taking us back to the basics; you expressed this wonderfully. And brava for moving the squirrel :)

strauss said...

That was very beautifully written. Yes very gently handled and vividly described.
Makes me think about how I should handle a similar situation, I liked your way.

gautami tripathy said...

You did very well. A child needs reassurances at that age.



gautami
Puzzled

Remiman said...

Shelley,
A great story to share. Children in their innocence are good puzzle solvers because they ask all the questions and express their feelings without resevation.
rel

Anonymous said...

Hey sis,

I liked the line, "I had this instinct to model a deeper reverence for life." This seems to be a theme in your parenting style, echoing the "Fake it 'til you make it!" in your entry on "Practicing Patience." Of course, the punchline is that, again, it's not clear that there's a whole lot of difference between "pretending to act reverent/patient" and actually acting that way.

By the way, I got your "updated email address" message, and I keep trying to email you, but it keeps bouncing. I tried both your "preferred address," and also the address that that server was trying to forward to, and neither one worked. Is it successfully forwarding messages to you from anyone else -- does it just hate me? Do you have any other addresses for me to try? Email me -- apparently it works in that direction.

YITB

megan said...

that's a fortunate child you have

sundaycynce said...

I agree exactly with what Becca said. You handled what you could have brushed off or handled matter-of-factly in a richly gentle and empathetic manner and told about it wonderfully.

G said...

As always, this is beautifully written. For me, seeing an animal right after it's lost its life is particularly sad, having just missed the opportunity to save it! (Even a squirrel.) Kudos to you for bravely confronting this with your son. He's so lucky to have a mommy like you! XO