I am not a vengeful person, at least not an overly vengeful one. True, I stifled a snicker when I heard an old flame’s hair was thinning as quickly as his waist was thickening, but it’s not like I had wished that on him. I just took a teensy bit of delight in it. No matter how unjustly I think I’ve been treated, I am usually content with allowing karma to take care of things—if only because I fear seeking revenge would only heap bad karma back on me.
But let me tell you that vindication is a whole different matter. I did not actively seek it out, but after enduring more than twenty years of ridicule, doubts and eye rolls, vindication has found me. And it is sweet.
My traumatic tale began twenty-five years, four houses, three dogs and one marriage ago. My husband, daughter and I had just completed a much-anticipated move to a new city and I’d spent the whole morning cleaning—and reveling in—our brand spanking new house. It was perfect. After lunch, I settled into a cushioned lounge chair on the deck for a short break. It was a glorious fall day, bright blue skies, gold and crimson leaves gently rustling on the trees that framed the deck. As the autumn sun warmed my skin, a feeling of complete contentment washed over me and my eyelids became heavier and heavier. I was just giving myself over to a delicious slumber when it happened.
A loud ker-plunk, ker-plunk sounded on the deck beside my head and startled me. I sat up, looked around and saw two large acorns beside my chair. Oh, I thought, I guess they fell out of the tree. Just as I was resettling myself and closing my eyes, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, three more acorns landed beside me and rolled under the lounge chair. And then ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, another three immediately followed.
My interest piqued, I sat up with eyes wide open, waiting to see if the shelling would continue. Within seconds a veritable barrage of acorns rained down on me from the biggest oak tree. Looking up, I was stunned by what I saw. It wasn’t the gentle breeze liberating the acorns from the tree, but two squirrely squirrels!
“What’s the big idea?” I yelled up at them.
“Squeak-squawk-squeeeeak,” they replied in a smart-alecky tone. (Not necessarily smart-alecky for middle schoolers, mind you, but pretty darn smart-alecky for squirrels.) I swear they were up there elbowing each other, proud that they’d gotten over on the human.
Thus began the squirrel wars. For the next few years I was regularly pelted with acorns, small twigs and clumps of dried leaves whenever I stepped out onto the deck alone. One morning they even dropped a hunk of French bread on me, which I assume they pilfered from the trash of one of the nearby restaurants although it’s possible they had their own little bakery up there. If so, I hoped a macaron bomb was headed my way.
To make matters worse, my only witness to this rodent roguery was my dog Ruckus whom those delinquents mercilessly taunted by hanging from the tree just out of her reach, causing her to go completely berserk with frustration. I shared that sentiment. With the two of us the sole victims—and Ruckus not terribly verbal—it was impossible to convince anyone else of my waking nightmare. My own daughter rolled her eyes and asked me what I’d been smoking.
I tried everything I could to confuse the enemy. I’d go out at different times of day, speak in loud foreign accents and wear my daughter’s old Halloween masks. All of these maneuvers took place when I was alone, of course, because that’s the only time those bushy-tailed bullies struck. One afternoon, however, my husband came home early and found me standing at the window, binoculars trained on the command center, i.e., the nest at the top of the oak tree.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked.
“What does it look like I’m doing?” I snapped impatiently. “I’m trying to read their lips to get a fix on their next move. And it’s not easy because their lips are practically nonexistent.”
He walked away, shaking his head.
The truth is I never did get the upper hand on those furry little miscreants. I don’t know if it was the same squirrels year after year or if the original squirrels left instructions in their will, but the reign of terror, while it ebbed and flowed, only ended for good when we moved away.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday. I was talking to my daughter on the phone. Expecting a baby in four weeks, she and her husband had just left city living behind and bought their first house in the suburbs, one complete with an expansive deck and a yard full of trees. I was looking at the photos she had texted me and exclaimed, “Wow, that deck is beautiful!”
“Yeah, right,” she snorted. “Too bad we can’t use it.”
“You can’t use it?” I asked, confused.
“Not unless we want to get bombarded with acorns,” she continued, her voice full of annoyance. “Mom, the squirrels in our yard are little jerks!”
I laughed right out loud.
“Mom, I’m serious. They’re complete jerks! They hit my friend on the head the other day and she said it really hurt. If I took the baby out there, she could get a concussion.”
I tried to remind her about my experience, but she was on a rodent roll and talked right over me. And that was fine. I didn’t need her to acknowledge what I’d been through or apologize for not believing me all those years ago. The chickens had come home to roost–right alongside the squirrels–and that was good enough for me. After all, I thought with satisfaction, I am not a vengeful person.