I had just fixed a late lunch–noodles, cheese, watermelon–and had three kids in their chairs ready to eat when Michael, my hubby, yelled up at our kitchen nook window. “Hey, look outside.” He wore sunglasses and a big smile, and he held up a trap. Inside was a chipmunk who scurried in circles looking for a way out.
When they heard the news of a little critter outside, Melisandra and Corrigan left their plates to get a closer look. I was too hungry to postpone lunch. Plus, I needed to stay with my infant, Reece, who was in a highchair eating Puffs.
I could hear them through the window. “Look at him go,” Melisandra said. She’s seven and starting to get interested in her dad’s hobbies–shooting guns, hunting mushrooms, trapping animals.
“I want to give him hugs,” Corrigan said. She’s three. She likes to cuddle her stuffed bunny at bedtime.
“Don’t put your fingers in there,” Michael said, probably to both of them. “He could bite.” I could hear the metal rattle as the chipmunk circled from one end of the trap to the other.
The kids filed back inside to the table. Michael followed them, holding the trap up for me to “oooh and ahhh” at his prize. I was twirling noodles on to my fork when he said, “Now comes the question of what I should do with him.” He made an effort to appear apologetic. But here is what he wanted to do: toss the critter into a plastic bag and tie it shut, or even better, throw the critter into one of our rain barrels and not teach it to swim.
I put the noodles in my mouth, but mingling spaghetti and cheese with images of the chipmunk trying to keep his head above water, scratching plastic to climb upward, made eating difficult. I resisted the urge to spit on my plate and swallowed.
Even though chipmunks have made a cozy nest in the log pile and cause expensive problems like chewing on the wiring of our SUV, I still hope we can all live in harmony. By harmony, I mean, they just need to stay out of my stuff, and we will all be fine. Michael wanted permission to kill the chipmunk, but I couldn’t grant it. It would be, well, ahh … unneighborly. I didn’t want to tell the girls how we killed the chipmunk. I certainly didn’t want them to watch. But mostly, I projected my own fears of being trapped/manipulated/coerced by some outside force into this circumstance. That little critter woke with a nice To Do list of his own; he saw the walnuts we set out and thought, “Awesome. What a treat.” He proceeded inside and … well, we know the rest.
Michael put the chipmunk in the Tahoe. He drove five miles from our house to a road that overlooks the valley. There is a spot where drivers can pull over and take a break from their travels to take in the view. He put the chipmunk on the grass, opened the trap, let it go. A few yards away stood a woman with a man in sandals and a Buddhist robe.
“How’s that for karma?” he told me later.
“I suppose you thought it a sign you’re guaranteed to come back for another life as a white male.”
“Yep.” He laughed. I tried to ignore how satisfied he looked–as if saving the chipmunk did me a favor–and focused on how he respected me enough, was “neighborly” enough to give the chipmunk another home.