I’m pretty sure there aren’t any inspirational quotes that read “Be a squirrel!” but I think there should be. This week, a friend told a story that led me to re-read one of our favorite picture books and now I am all about squirrels. Give me a second and you might agree that this isn’t quite as weird as it sounds.
My friend began his story by telling us that he had just sent a text to his daughter that read “Be an fs today.” Now, Jim loves acronyms so I knew that fs stood for something interesting. I settled in to find out exactly what it meant. He went on to tell the story of his mom, a woman he often credits with his can-do attitude. Every day at four o’clock, she would take a break from her daily work to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea. Shortly after the door closed behind her, nearly daily, the family would hear her shout, “Go away you f****in’ squirrels.” You see, she had a bird feeder and like many people, she spent a lot of time keeping the squirrels away from the food that was meant for the birds. And as any of us who have kept bird feeders can imagine, she wasn’t very successful. No matter how hard you work, no matter how many times you tell them to go away, those f****in’ squirrels- or fs-s- just keep coming back.
As I listened, I kept thinking of one of our favorite picture books, Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin. In Those Darn Squirrels, a curmudgeonly old man named Mr. Fookwire loves painting birds. As winter approaches, Mr. Fookwire realizes that the birds will soon fly south so he builds elaborate bird feeders to keep them close. Of course, the birds aren’t the only creatures who love the feeders and a hysterical back and forth ensues between Mr. Fookwire and a very clever bunch of squirrels. The story ends with the squirrels dressing as birds and Mr. Fookwire realizing that while these animals may not be the same as the birds he is comfortable with, he can grow to love them all the same.
Over this past weekend, I couldn’t get Those Darn Squirrels out of my mind. Those f****in’ squirrels just kept on keeping on. They kept trying until they achieved their goal. They were going to be what my friend reminded his daughter to be- a fs.
And isn’t that what we are all doing? Each morning my alarm goes off and I wake up (begrudgingly as I am not a morning person) and put one foot in front of the other and start a new day. And Rob and the girls are doing the same thing. Every single day. And we are all doing it holding on to hope that things will keep moving forward.
In the past few months, Katherine has missed three dance performances but you know what she does every afternoon? She takes dance classes on Zoom, working to improve her technique, increase her flexibility and just do the thing that brings her the most joy. There are no performances on the schedule and truthfully it is hard to imagine when there will be again. But she just keeps dancing because it brings her joy and because she is confident and hopeful that one day her feet will be on a stage again.
Over the past few months, Caroline achieved two long term goals. She was selected as both soccer team captain and president of DECA for next school year. These are roles she has dreamed of throughout high school. She has looked forward to her senior year hopeful that she could be the role model that people were to her. Her spring club soccer season was canceled and her fall high school season feels pretty up in the air. But you know what she does? She continues to run and train for soccer and participates on Zoom calls with current and future teammates. Her trip to DECA nationals was canceled but this weekend, she spent lots of time on the phone, with other DECA leaders, brainstorming ideas to keep their chapter great next year. She just keeps doing these things because they bring her joy and because she is confident and hopeful that there will be a soccer season in the fall and DECA competitions in the winter.
The truth is we have no idea what September will bring us. Katherine and Caroline will be high school freshman and seniors, respectively- two milestone years. And we have no idea what those years are going to look like. I am having a hard time with this as are the girls but I am also incredibly proud of them. They are carrying on, like Those Darn Squirrels, putting on foot in front of the other preparing for whatever is coming. It seems likely that next year isn’t going to look like the year that we all had imagined. At the simplest level, it seems like we will all be wearing masks but I am starting to think about even bigger changes. Like Mr. Fookwire who had to learn to paint squirrels dressed as birds instead of birds, we are going to have to adapt. But also like Mr. Fookwire, I am hopeful that we can grow to love whatever it is that comes our way. After all, like an fs, we have to move forward each and every day toward our goals.