Friday, 14 August 2009


Yes Squirrel, I miss you. And this week I know exactly why you came by your pet name. Squirrel.

The first time, I was shocked. I discovered exactly what you had stowed away in your secret bed each night. That first haul may have included a plank of wood and pair of scissors. But now, they are normal.

When I gulp down the weekly anti allergy tablet and swallow a medicinal brandy to gather the strength to face that skip, the place you call my bed, to shovel out a landfill of junk, I do so carefully, and I try to be respectful.

I know that it is not crap. It is treasure. Worth more than gold.

The chewed blue shoe belonging to Sindy, fourteen rubber bands, and the old tissue box cradling a furry sea otter, two crayons, a letter of complaint, and a plastic toaster, are all cherished items. They did not arrive here at this waste disposal unit without being loved and caressed by you en route, and placed here to be watched over with all the ferocity of a small squirrel guarding their Class A hazelnuts.

Some stuff I leave where I find them. I won't say anything, but I urge you to return them discreetly. Like Shark's bed knobs. She has been eyeing you suspiciously and complaining that you nick them since the day you started sharing this bedroom. So far she has yet to find hard evidence. Even Shark approaches your bedclothes with trepidation.

But there's more to your squirrelling behaviour than your bed stash.

You especially like small things. Tiny shapes woven with microscopic textures that you hide inside your little hands. Fragments of gravel, threads of fabric, infinitesimally torn fragments of paper and sparkles of beads and sequins are all treasured items that you find beautiful. You will squirrel them into your pockets, behind curtains and down between cracks in the floorboards. The last, you will cry about later.

Over the years I have learned to be careful about removal and disposal of your treasures, and not shout too loud about the bloody crap invading my once delightful home. Your box of small things might stay there for a week or two. The pile of soil in the bedroom, three days, because mama does not sweep the floors of this house on daily rotation. But even then your cute ways and tales of sparkling soil allowed you to get away with it.

Of course I think all this squirrelling instinct comes not from my genes, but because you are a sibling. From your birth point you became painfully aware that right next to you there is an enemy who looks exactly like you and who is always ready to snatch treasures off you. You have probably developed your small stuff tendency because of those early beginnings.

But my goodness, how that strange little quirk of toddler mine!mine!mine! behaviour has grown into what folks might think of as some sort of compulsive disorder rightly calling for the scrutiny of a team of trained clinicians with clipboards.

Because now you troll the house and garden seeking out small things to classify before squirrelling.

I know you like databases. Like the database you keep of all the cats in the area. And I know you have been ordering your stuff in degrees of shininess, size, and whether it bends. The way you have started labelling stuff has helped, because now I can see the broken object for what it is. Not a piece of plastic insect nose snapped off from Build a Beetle but a carefully catalogued sample of yellow. Give it two years and you'll be adding heat moulded, poss. polymer, length 1.2 mm, date of acquisition 12/3/09.

In fact so advanced are your sorting, categorising, recording and squirrelling skills, that you may make a fine museum attendant, librarian, or lawyer. We of course aspire to the latter, on account of how you can present all details in such excruciating, drawn out precision, that we often give in and feed you ice cream to shut you up before you have finished explaining why (paragraph 2.3 subsection 1.2.2, clause 3) your sister deserved locking in the bedroom by covert removal of doorknob for thirty minutes while you came down, ate Shreddies, and then walked upstairs to calmly reinsert the doorknob, and let her out again. And that, thanks to the precise and punctilious manner of your explanation, comes across to me as a totally justified and reasonable thing to do. You see? Lawyer.

With these fond memories, and your bed littered with broken objects, I turn to your desk, and I miss you there too. I would clean that up while you are away from us this week, but I dare not.

I can see you have been filling hazelnut shells with scrapings of wax, then sticking threads in the centre. Those, Tiger tells me, are candles for fairies. I could probably put those safely somewhere. But it is the sand and dust particles on your desk. They might be sand and dust, or they might be significant. I just do not know. You might be classifying eight different varieties of sand and dust by colour, silica shape, and dustiness, finding it all beautiful, and intriging and delightful.

Which is what I most love about you. Not the mountains of crap you refuse to discard but the way you interact with all your precious squirreled items with absolute joy in their concealment and disclosure.

Squirrel, I look forward to you being back home. This house strewn with junk will all become treasure again.


Evans family said...

what a fabulous blog......I have a daughter who 'squirrels' things away. She too has a 'tip' of a bed that is full of odd and ends...she likes to make litte bags to carry her belongings around with her. She is only 4 at the moment, but I can see from your blog that things look they might develo ;-) I hope she had a good time at camp.

Rachel M. said...

Please send her to work with me for a week!!! She could catalog all the toys we have strewn about at work and our fabric collection.

sharon said...

A born Museum curator methinks.

kellyi said...

Off topic - this link will take you to a posting (not mine!) all about you, Grit :)

Kelly Jene said...

This could be added to a book all about your 3 wild critters. I love it! The description is so vivid I can see her scampering about finding a treasure here and there.

My son becomes emotionally attached to those objects he finds and holds dear. Every discarded shirt that should go to someone else must become a pillow because it is his absolute FAVorite.

Enjoyable read!

Sparx said...

Hi! Great post - my son is developing squirreling tendencies too...

I've linked back to your sewage farm post from the Poo Carnival over at mine, come and check it out if you have some time

Grit said...

dear evans, there are clear signs regarding squirreling behaviour. and always check behind the curtains. small children think you never look there.

rachel, a week would not be long enough for her. maybe several years would do it.

she would be good at this sharon, and i shall soon take her to the pitt rivers museum in oxford to inspire her.

kelly, i have been goggle eyes at that post!

this is true kelly jene - the amount of emotion they invest in this discarded junk is awe inspiring!

hi sparx! thank you! i will, and thank you for a new twist to the carnival idea.

Anonymous said...

I love the individuality and preciousness you see in your daughters. And how they are allowed to develop to be themselves.