The Wonderings of Kate
When my three teen-aged boys burst into my bathroom on Tuesday morning, I knew immediately that something was going on. It’s not unusual for me to have company while showering. After all, I lost my privacy the first time I gave birth 18 years ago. But all three of them at the same time, in particular my middle son, who’d rather walk on hot coals than see any part of his mother unclothed? And he was the first one in the door.
I peered out through the fogged glass. There was something in his hands, something cradled against his blue sweatshirt. Some sort of fuzzy creature.
“A baby fox!” my youngest exclaimed, pure joy on his face.
A warning bell went off in my head. The evening before, he’d come home proclaiming that he was the godfather of his friend’s baby fox, found across the street. Was this some sort of conspiracy, a handoff on an unsuspecting mom?
I struggled into my bathrobe, shampoo still in my hair, and went downstairs. The creature, who had already been named Todd, was wrapped in a blanket in a box. My eldest was Googling what to feed a baby fox. My youngest snatched up my phone to call his friend to ask how to take care of Todd, who looked a bit bleary and was shivering violently. My middle son explained that Todd had been crying at the door to the back porch asking to be let in.
I dare you not to have your heart melt at this face! Like something from a Beatrice Potter book, I gave myself a mental shake. This was a wild animal, not some character from a children’s story!
Dog food softened with warm water was Google’s answer. The other fox baby was going to a sanctuary later today. Todd would be picked up and taken in a couple of hours. Against my better judgment, I told my middle son, who’d forgotten to complete an important assignment and had been in the middle of a total meltdown right before I’d gone to shower, that he could stay home and finish the assignment while waiting for Todd’s ride.
As for me, I didn’t get much done at work, what with researching fox behavior and being on the receiving end of multiple electronic updates on Todd, including a shot of him asleep on my middle son’s chest. Note they both have red hair. And yes, my fifteen year old has a full beard.
I also admired a video of Todd eating the dog food. I’d been worried he might be sick, or dehydrated. He scampered around the floor, like a cross between a kitten and a puppy. Todd’s ride to the sanctuary never arrived and by late afternoon, I was on my own. I called a wildlife rescue organization. They gently suggested I put him back outside.
I was taken aback. It was going to be another hard freeze, how would he survive? And what about the hawks and coyotes? The patient volunteer told me that fox parents raise the kits together and move them around between multiple dens. It was quite likely that Todd’s parents had been startled while moving him and would come back looking for him. Finally, after she assured me that I could bring him back in if he was still there in an hour or so and they would pick him up in the morning, I agreed.
My eldest called to say that he’d seen an adult fox at the edge of the yard. By the time I got home, Todd was gone, having hopped out of his laundry hamper nest and under the back porch. My youngest was bereft. He cried for Todd and worried about whether he’d found his family. He told me, through his tears, that he knew it was better for Todd to be with his mother but that it made him both sad and happy. He explained that he hadn’t gotten to know Todd well enough to let him go.
The last bit brought me up short. I flashed back to the morning I left my eight week old baby at daycare and cried all morning at work, terrified that I would never be able to let him go to college, not if I could barely get through the day when he was at daycare. When I went to visit him at lunch time, my baby was sleeping peacefully in his crib. And somehow, here I am on the verge of having to let him go to college, knowing that it is the best thing, yet missing him already.
Something in this little baby fox triggered something in my youngest child, some overwhelming, primal, protective instinct. It was a wonder to behold.
This morning, three days later, a beautiful adult fox walked around our backyard. Its coat glistened red in the sunlight and its tail was a plume of white. I pointed him out to the boys.
“I think they have their dens in our backyard,” I told them.
“Todd never really left us. He’s still here in our family. I’m not sad anymore.”
You are so right, my beloved child.
By: Kate ‘Straight from the Heart’ Abbott