1: A Postscript
Our furry friends have lessons they can teach us in the most unexpected ways at times. Shall we call these SquirreLessons and see what we derive from them?
First let me mention that my friend and fellow Hubber, Suny51, started me thinking recently when he visited my hub, Paranoid or Just Plain Squirrelly and left a charming comment which I enjoyed immensely. He described sitting among his flowers and trees while squirrels approached almost near enough to reach out and touch! What a visual! Thank you again, Suny!
That commnet not only reminded me that my squirrel episodes may be incomplete, but it stirred a particular remembrance of something which happened so many years ago, I'd almost forgotten it! It was also a personally poignant remembrance involving the furry creatures.
I began to recall various details about it and some revelations resulting from that experience with squirrels when I was a new bride of 22 and was visiting my new husband's large extended family in his home territory of Southern Indiana for the very first time that September in 1954.
Come along with me .. . .
A starry-eyed Bride
And so my Fairy Tale began
Of course I was a typical new bride, full of left-over dreams of girlhood, hope in a hope-chest, lyrical visions out of Brides magazine and had also familiarized myself enough with Town and Country to be able to visualize just the proper attire to wear for a country ball, a stroll or a trek in the woods if woods turned out to be the country to be strolled, not that I had the slightest what that really involved!
But after all, I was fastidious and fashionable, and though I was provided no information about what to plan for regarding what we'd be doing and where we'd be going, I knew that my trousseau met basic protocol and it should be appropriate for any occasion which might arise, or at least, I thought it was; - well, except for that one silk dinner dress I hadn't quite finished making. I did think to bring it and my Featherlite portable machine along and was actually expecting probably to need the dress and to be able to get it finished. Brides are not generally known for being practical in every way!
As it turned out, expecting to EVER wear that dress or to need to finish it would prove absurd in this new life I'd enered. But please let me emphasize that I was more than willing to alter or abandon those trivial expectations for the sake of the marriage. My major vision was focused upon being a worthy woman who would work toward becoming the best possible wife and mother I could be, if I should be blessed with children. Meanwhile I was intent on being the good wife.
I know. I was pretty naive. So were the times, I suppose, though every gal I knew wasn't quite so ridiculously idealistically like-minded, certainly, but neither was I regarded as a freak!. In any case, it just didn't occur to me that the earnest desire and resolve to fulfill that ideal could fail to make my vision blossom into reality. I do sometimes marvel at the degree of naivete I harboured.
My exposure to glamour in college and in my work was superficial and minimal in importance in my eyes compared to those lofty ideals. Having a serious contemplative mindset, coupled with a generous smattering of creativity and joyful disposition made it simple to "go for it". Soon other more oppressive external pressure would fortify my own resolve. But at this juncture, I was simply inspired by my own high expectation for myself. 22 in 1954 would probably translate to about 12 or so in today's world..
Also being accustomed to complying to others' demands and expectations, having been the youngest of 4 in my family, merely intensified the clear view of my ideals and helped prepare me for the next development. A major tragedy which took the lives of the eldest of my siblings and her family played a large part in both my misjudgments and my fierce determination to meet my own standards. They WERE my own misjudgments as well as my own set of ideals, a risky combination at best. But all these factors went into strengthening my dedication and fortifying my perseverance to meet ungodly pressures with fortitude beyond the outskirts of sensible self-preservation, by calling out every resource within me.. Even when out to be required to be literally willing to try even to alter who I was, that is what I tried to do. Of course through that, I learned one cannot successfully do that, however willing to try. It proved me to me as nothing else could have.
I had, of course, misjudged most everything and misplaced my loyalty and dedication. I chose the wrong husband for, as it turned out, for the wrong reasons. My only excuse is good intentions and stubborn determination. Ah, so.
The net result was that sometimes, as I was to learn, even the most sincere willingness at that deep a level is simply not enough and then the failure to recognize that it's doomed from the get-go becomes one's own full responsibility for whatever may have followed or does continue to follow, if it's left unresolved.
I also learned that fully accepting that responsibility is what finally saves and frees one from impossible demands and life-sucking predicaments born out of one's poor choices as well as from permitting them to continue and to expand or to be perpetuated by anyone else.
Accepting that responsibility allows one to rectify it, as well as to preserve the true self one is and should become. It's an oversimplification, of course. And that It need not take a toll on anyone else who is also willing to own up to his/her responsibility is a fact. That fact, however, one also learns, is not something one can control or even influence, because it IS the responsibility of that other person. No amount of sorrow, self-sacrifice or accepting or dealing out wrongful treatment can lift one's own or anyone else's own burden of responsibility. Only by accepting it for what it truly is can it ever be lifted so that life can truly blossom. In the final analysis, one must do what must be done and let others do theirs.
But I'd not intended to wax philosophical at all, but simply to tell another rather charming squirrel story, so let me digress no further than necessary to set it up and get on with telling it!
Please continue to bear with me. . .
Reality set in
But this is not the featured story. It's just beiing mentioned in order to set up the contrast of my illusions and my reality which was just beginning to unfold at the time of the squirrel incident which IS the featured story here!
I had only recently graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics and a minor in Fashion Design and Art when I met my future husband in Houston where I worked in a glamorous prestigious downtown store as a Bridal Consultant, and where wealthy brides-to-be and retinues of families and friends came from all around Texas and other countries, especially south of the US, to find and buy the most beautiful expensive gowns available, as well as their trousseaux and all their wedding parties' finery. My work involved all phases and the coordinating which I so loved, with wonderful clothes and bridal arrangements with which to work. But it involved such all-consuming application of myself and my talents that i scarcely had time to do anything else. I was happy enough with it as it was.
My future husband was a cadet at the nearby Air Force base. I was urged into meeting him because my roommate and her fiance felt I needed a social life. He had a bearing, a charisma and an emphatic drive which impressed me, though they didn't necessarily attract or magnetize me.
But though in retrospect we obviously had little in common nor solid grounds on which to build beyond dancing well together, still there was to soon happen that major tragedy in my life which knocked my foundations out from under me and which drew me closer to his confident strength and which provided him a position in my life which surely would never have happened otherwise. I mistook strength for character, confidence for substance and I totally failed to verify anything resembling real compatibility. Plus I ignored caution and advice from his detractors, including even those who had introduced us and my parents, whose own grief had shaken their foundations at the death of their eldest and dearest daughter and her family
For me it was a kind of rebound situation, but certainly it was not the usual kind. Even my own inner warnings and occasional retreats from it failed to prevent my headlong plunge into what turned out to be disaster.
But whatever storybook aspects there were or might ever have been, on that chilly mid-September morn following that marital plunge I took on the 10th, any story-book illusions were about to be exposed and would hit the ground with a thud much like the squirrels he liked to shoot from tree branches and carry back as trophies, which I truly abhorred in my heart of hearts!
This episode with squirrels which follows was but a tiny preview of the next 18 years of my life and that marriage. However, it bears sharing for its own really special moments.
. . . as you will see . . .
It happened to be squirrel hunting season and he was an avid lifelong hunter. Now, squirrel season excitement is probably second only to Hoosier Hysteria basketball in Indiana, and both were pretty new to me, and especially at the pitch to which the enthusiasm for them rises there, in the case of basketball, it's in the closed gyms' ear-splitting punishment and in the case of squirrel season's, it's in my pure antipathy goes with deliberately shoot these little creatures.
Let me mention without apology that, In my maturity and through diligent study, I have developed some limited tolerance for the practice within specific parameters, especially related to larger animals whose very survival is at stake when their proliferation outgrows their habitat to a danger point and they can be protected best by supervised culling of their numbers in order that more of their species can survive, rather than dying of painful starvation and predation due to depletion of food, weakness, loss of teeth and seriously ill health. But it is a tenuous balance, at best and must never be taken lightly. I detest killing for "sport", and more so when there no sport to it, but merely manipulated violence toward helpless animals, which it becomes in many cases. That is an abomination, in my opinion.
A fateful Juxtaposition
So it was that he expected and insisted I attend the high school championship basketball tournaments, too. Though I love watching good games, particularly when I know the teams or have real interest in them - and when not being physically punished by the experience or pressured to "enjoy", the bottom line was that those I was forced to attend over the years were mostly punishing.
But the immediate challenge to be faced on my honeymoon was the expectation and insistence that I must accompany him into the woods for the First Day of Squirrel Season. This is an almost sacred ritual there. And I was literally expected to - no, required to go with him into the woods that first day of squirrel season armed with a gun which I was provided. It was the first gun I ever even held and it had not been among my trousseau accessories for very good reason! I didn't want one!
Furthermore, the real kicker was that I was expected to like all of it as much as he obviously did! That was definitely where it got sticky and clearly illustrated how little we had in common - and seemingly how little he cared so long as I complied. Frankly, a better provision for my excursion and a more loving one, if I had to go at all, would have been some sort of battery-operated heater or even a blanket in lieu of the gun! At the same time I honestly know of nothing that I could have done more to express my willingness and to honor what I could understand of his preferences, short of grabbing the gun and shooting squirrels.
However that is not the issue. One could truthfully say no one was at fault - except either or both of us for the misjudgment of our compatibility. I had no control over his, but i did over mine. I had to take hold of it eventually with as much determination and dignity as was left me when it finally became unavoidable and clear that there was no hope. Another story, of course. Not for here and now.
But it was clear from the beginning that he really knew very little about me or what I needed or preferred and that it was immaterial to him, except perhaps he'd noticed that I preferred to try to be a good wife and he was willing to encourage that. . I must simply have missed some specifics in Home Economics classes as well as overlooking them among Solomon's lists of required wifely virtues. But I never saw or heard that shooting things for fun was among a good wife's list of requirements. But short of that, I summoned my best determinations and accompanied him into the woods, feeling as though I wee surely already the hostage of Little Red Riding Hood's big bad fox or at least of Snow White's evil stepmother! I was hungry too and didn't even have a shiny red poisoned apple to consider eating.
Perhaps to him taking me with him that day represented a sincere effort to include me in his favorite activities, and so to share his life with me from the most visceral level.. I would have much preferred to finish my unfinished silk dress with or without an occasion for wearing it or just to stay back at the house with the other women and sip coffee while trying to get acquainted with them. In any case, the woods that day was to be the first, last and only invitation to accompany him on thousands more such expeditions during our marriage, often lasting for days and weeks at a time and sometimes to fish or catch poisonous snakes as well as to hunt for anything living that was legal to kill..
Again, ample evidence that our priorities and principles were out of sync.
But so began the tragi-comedy involving this day's early encounter which included squirrels and which I am about to relate. . . (promises, promises!) I really am! Still with me?. . .
Continued: Please see next segment of this story. Click-> 2: Post Postscript