The Adventures of the Teenaged Groundhog Who Lives at my Parents’ House

My Mom is a ridiculously nice person to pretty much anyone she meets. Her kindness especially extends to animals. It doesn’t even matter what kind of animal it is.  She feeds treats to dogs around the neighborhood who aren’t even hers. She’ll feed stray cats tuna and milk, which is a weird combination of foods and makes stray cats seem even more like the cat version of human pedophiles. She even gets those gift baskets with the weird cheeses in ’em for all the spiders in our attic every Christmas. Basically, if you’re an animal, you’re cool with my mom.

Apparently, there’s a groundhog, or a mole, or some kind of rodent that digs holes living in my parents yard. Besides being shitty at predicting the weather, groundhogs can also be somewhat disruptive pests in a suburban area. Knowing this, you’d think my folks would want to off the little guy. Not so. Here’s the text I got from my sister Amy:

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In trying to make sense of this lone groundhog’s anti-social activity, my mom created a backstory for him. And I love it. We should do this for more of the animal kingdom. “You can’t shoot that deer. His wife’s in the hospital with lupus.” “Don’t feel bad for that salmon – he owed the bear $4,000.” “All squirrels are on coke.”

So according to mom, this guy’s a teenager trying to make it in the big bad world on his own. What does a teenage groundhog look like, anyway? Regular groundhog, but with a backwards hat? Skateboard? Disrespect for authority? Inviting his other groundhog friends over to drink beers in his parents hole while they’re out of town? Maybe he says “radical,” or “gnarly,” just like an early 90’s advertising executive thinks a teenager would do. I could see him fitting right into a Sunny D commercial, running into the kitchen with the other kids and being offered the orange drink after the human mother finally calms down and accepts the fact that her son is friends with a talking anthropomorphic woodland creature.

My favorite part of what she said? The idea that a groundhog is trying to “make it” on his own. What exactly constitutes “making it” in the world of groundhogs? Is it moving out and having your own hole? Can you advance in groundhog society? I can see him now, bragging to his old groundhog high school buddies: “Yeah, I moved out. I got a sweet ass job digging holes in a separate area that also has dirt.” There’s just not much of a ladder there. Groundhogs pretty much all of the same job: burrow. There are no groundhog supervisors, telling the less intelligent groundhogs how they should dig holes from the lofty perch that is middle management. Unless he wins some kind of weird groundhog lottery involving shagbak hickory nuts, this groundhog’s lot in life is sealed. (An aside: I do realize that the reference to shagbak hickory nuts, a staple of the groundhog’s diet, betrays the fact that I cherrypicked a few facts about groundhogs from their Wikipedia entry before I wrote this.)

In one way, this story was my mom’s way of justifying not killing the rodent. She knows that for practical reasons her and my Dad should get rid of the thing, but she just can’t bring herself to do it. Check out this other text my sister sent:
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It warms her heart that he’s eating good. I’m surprised she isn’t feeding the thing herself. She’d probably defend any animal who didn’t try to eat her first. In fact, she’d probably even stick up for some of them. “It’s not the lion’s fault. Shame on his mother’s soul for not feeding him before he left the jungle, or wherever lions come from. I gave him a giant bowl of spaghetti and sent him on his way.”

That’s my mom for you. One of these times I’m going to come home to a groundhog and a lion sitting around my parents’ kitchen table eating baked ziti and think, “No Mike, you’re not high on acid. That’s just your mom’s love of all God’s creatures shining through. It’s beautiful really, what a wonderful soul she has, and how she…wait…is that…is that a wolf eating garlic bread next to the fridge?”

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