My sister bought my mom a dead, taxidermy squirrel holding a gun for her 60th birthday. My mom had been talking about said squirrel ever since she and I contemplated kidnapping him from the display cabinet of a local beach bar one foggy night last March. The bouncer was on to us the second we stepped onto the red velvet couch next to the weathered whisky display case to get a good look at him. She loves telling the story of how, when Danielle came over the next morning and declared that she had done nothing regrettable or embarrassing the previous night at the bar, my mother agreed that neither had she! Until I pointed out, “Mom, you tried to steal a squirrel.”
Danielle went about acquiring the stuffed squirrel we now lovingly call ‘Nuts’ in an honest way, although she refuses to disclose the price she paid for him. The beach bar might think they got the better end of that deal, whatever it was, but I beg to differ.
This dead-taxidermy-squirrel-lovingly-called-Nuts is one of those objects that has endless uses like duct-tape or a mellon baller. He can be used to scare my mom’s friends, to distract her grandkids when they need to get scraped knees cleaned, to pretend-shoot my dad in the temple. He can watch you wherever you walk in a room. He could probably haunt you in your sleep.
I find myself wanting to hug and pet him and also reflexively throw him against the wall. On the clear, brittle booger morning that was our last in Yosemite for my mom’s 60th birthday, I find myself wondering how his eyes have been preserved for so long.
He wasn’t with us on the hike to Yosemite Falls when my sisters and I simultaneously touched the melted snow as it passed down the stream. He was still in his wrapping paper when we rode in a motorhome up the mountain and Danielle cried as she felt Sprout kick for the first time (and I cried too). Maybe he was laughing to himself when everyone pretended to fall asleep while I explained the process of making the birthday brownies. Maybe he was singing to himself when these too-salted caramel brownies were presented to my mom with crooked candles. Maybe he wished he could have written a note in the book Maddie gave my mom with hundreds of letters from her friends and family. Maybe he was laughing when Danielle took a picture of Scott and Matt and Andy looking like a boy band posing for their album cover as they walked through the forest at dusk. Maybe he was laughing when Matt accidentally dumped beer in his eye during a game of Polish Frisbee. Maybe he wanted his own matching flannel jammies. Maybe he wanted some of the take-out Chinese food we ate in front of True Value on the way home.
Either way, Nuts has a new life with us now. Hopefully he’s as happy about it as we are.
Sometimes memories are made in the strangest ways.