There was a baby squirrel hopping around the yard this morning: cute, but worryingly small. It was clearly an escapee, and I tried using my special mamamojo (that's a thing, right?) to let its mother know that she had a runaway. No concerned adult squirrel appeared, and the little one kept cavorting, inexpertly climbing trees, tripping over sticks, and gamboling in the leaf litter.
Cleo and I watched from the window. Or, rather, I watched the squirrel and sent urgent telepathic messages to its mother, and Cleo kept her eye firmly on the cup of dry Cheerios on the table. She has recently graduated from "baby puffs" (essentially less substantial, more expensive Cheerios) to the real deal, and she's smitten with the little round things. If she's in her high chair and I set one in front of her, she'll delicately pick it up, pinkie extended, and transfer it to her wide-open mouth. If I present a whole little pile, she'll fill her fists and try to cram both hands, all her fingers, and multiple Cheerios into her mouth at once. The concept of one-at-a-time apparently requires thinking above the pay grade of a nine-month-old.
Once her mouth contains at least one Cheerio, she thoughtfully gums it while she manipulates any strays with an intense focus. Some of her Cheerio projects include:
Down The Shirtfront
Down The Shirtback
Sticking a Damp One Behind The Ear
And testing hypotheses like: "I will be able to eat a Cheerio and suck on my pacifier at the same time"
Inevitably, a few will get away from her (even when she's not Testing Gravity). Once they hit the floor, they change status and become Floorios. This does not necessarily render them unfit for comsumption. On the contrary, thanks to a well-timed article in the New York Times, I welcome the chance for a serendipitous immune challenge. And she seems to like discovering a Floorio even better than being given a Cheerio.
Which brings us full circle. You know how squirrels hide food all over the place in the fall, and then spend the winter digging up stuff and eating it? Don't you wonder if they remember where they've buried all their nuts so they can find them later, or if they just bury willy-nilly, and trust that they'll somehow find food when they need it? Well, Cleo certainly seems to be operating by the latter principle. She makes an effort to scatter her treasure as widely as possible, and then her whole day is just a series of exciting, surprise snacks.
I eventually lost sight of the baby squirrel this morning, but I hope it found its way home, or failing that, that it at least happened upon some of the Groundios that litter our yard.