This post was made to facebook on April 26, 2020, and moved here for posterity.
Our children have been spending quite a bit of time indoors due to COVID. Because of this, whenever we get the chance to shoo them outside, we do so.
The weather yesterday was warm and the sun was shining. As we are trying to prepare our house for sale and get ready to move into our new house, there is always some household project needing to be done.
The garage is also where we have been staging all of the boxes we plan to use for the move.
The children, being children, decided to make a fort out of these boxes while I painted.
Later, they started hauling pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals from their rooms to make their cardboard fort more homey.
As I watched my 5 and 8 year old drag their clean bedding through our dirty garage and throw it onto the pile of boxes I had the strong urge to protest.
Then, at that very moment, I was transported back in time to my own childhood.
I was roughly 9 or 10 years old and we had a pet raccoon named Rascal.
Never mind how we got that raccoon.
Thats’s not important right now.
What is important for you to know is that we had him since he was a sightless baby and he’d only ever known humans. It’s also important to know that having a pet raccoon is a lot like having a medium-sized dog with anxiety issues; the stealth, agility, and climbing skills of a cat; and the curiosity, problem-solving skills, and opposable thumbs of a small child.
This one also happened to love teddy bears.
Now, mind you, he had his own teddy bears and toys. He was not deprived of play things. He was loved and well cared for. But when he wanted something, he didn’t think about all he had. He just took what he wanted.
One summer day I was playing with some of my favorite stuffed animals on our porch.
Amongst these stuffed animals was one of my favorite favorites–a little tan teddy-bear that, in retrospect, looked a little like a monkey crossed with a bear. It had a heart sewn into his right hand and was small enough to fit in a coffee cup.
I loved this ugly little bear-monkey thing.
I don’t exactly remember whether or not I was playing with Rascal or if he just ambushed me but I do remember that at some point Rascal decided he wanted my teddy bear.
My first solid memory of this incident is hauling ass across our yard, chasing a raccoon who stole my teddy bear, demanding (futilely) that he give him back.
He dashed from car to car with me in tow and then took off to the one place he felt he could hide: our barn. As I chased, tears began running from my eyes in fear he would ruin my favorite bear.
I continued to pursue him, screaming my nine year-old curses at the thief, into the barn and found him cowering between two stacks of lumber, my teddy bear clutched in his paws.
He hissed at me. The teddy bear at his feet was now nearly black with dirt and cobwebs and grime. The tears came in earnest.
I was undeterred.
Being a young girl I was not much larger than him and was able to wiggle my way between the lumber stacks.
He growled at me again and tried to retreat further between the stacks but he was cornered.
I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and started pulling him from between the lumber stacks while he struggled, clawed, hissed and fought.
If you’ve never fought an angry raccoon, let me assure you, it is not an easy task. I was not successful on my first attempt. He would fight me off, clutch the teddy bear in his teeth and claws and retreat back into the hole.
My childish anger, frustration and fear compelled me forward until, at last, I yanked him–squealing, and writhing–from the lumber pile and pried my teddy bear from his jaws. In the process, in addition to the raccoon slobber, dirt, oil, and sawdust, there was now a tear in my teddy bear’s neck.
I burst out into violent tears and declared Rascal a very naughty raccoon before turning and running toward the house, screaming for my mother.
She met me at the door and caught me in her arms.
Through body-heaving sobs I managed to communicate that Rascal has stolen my bear and ruined him.
My mother tenderly took my torn and soiled bear in her hands as compassionately as she would have taken a new baby and said, “Aww, sweety. It’s okay. We’ll fix him. You go play and I’ll make him all better.”
I did as she said and, true to her word, a few hours later she emerged from the house with my teddy bear. She had him swaddled in a towel and when she handed him to me I could see he was still wet from his ride through the washing machine. The tear in his neck had also been expertly repaired.
“Now,” she said, “Why don’t you take him into the sun where he can dry.”
She kissed me and all was right with the world.
As I watched my children pull blankets through the dirt of our garage I wanted to tell them not to get the blankets dirty. I wanted to tell them not to ruin the boxes we needed to move. I wanted them to stop being children.
And I caught myself thinking about my own mom and what she would have done.
My mother, who surely saw her daughter running through the yard screaming and chasing a raccoon did not interfere. Or maybe she didn’t hear or see me sobbing while I battled the little beast for my teddy bear, but she gave me the freedom to find my own strength in that moment. She let me do what I needed to do and when I returned to her, asking for her help, she was there with compassion and with love.
I mean let’s put aside the fact that she allowed her children to have a pet raccoon in the first place and focus on the fact that she let us create and fight, grow, and adventure, and was also there to help us when we needed.
I wanted to be like her.
Blankets could be washed. Boxes could be replaced. The wonder, curiosity, adventure and spirit of my kids was far more important.
I smiled (and cringed a little) and happily painted cabinets while they pretended they were animals in cages to be adopted.
Later, I adopted all of them.
Thanks, mom, for not stopping me from battling raccoons.