Life comes in cycles, and here’s an old chapter replaying itself.
When I was a teenager, we spent weekdays with mom, and weekends with dad. Both of them lived a subsistence existence, but with the rent expenses that mom also had, she really struggled to pay the bills at that stage of our lives. I don’t remember the occasion, but one hot summer day, she had saved enough to buy the eggs, flour and other ingredients that she needed to make us all a cake as a special treat. After the cake was cooked, she put it on the kitchen table to cool enough that she could ice it (she probably would have used her classic cream-cheese and sugar recipe.)
That rental property did not have air conditioning, and the doors were always wide open in the summer. Imagine the smell of fresh baked cake pervading the air in the house, and then a blood curdling scream. It was the scream of a horrific physical injury, perhaps that of somebody with a foreign object embedding deep in the flesh of their leg. We all rushed down to find out what happened, and it turned out that the smell of the cake was not just inviting to us, but also to a family of raccoons. Mom walked into the kitchen to find a mother raccoon and her little kids all sitting politely at the table in a circle around the now cool cake, helping themselves to dainty little handfuls. What sounded like the scream of mortal injury, was the scream of a struggling mom, who’s plan to spoil her kids was being eaten in front of her eyes.
From the kitchen you could enter the back room, or the hallway to the front door, and from the front door you could enter the “piano room”, which also had a door to the back room and back to the kitchen. The scene degenerates into chaos at this point, with mom and the rest of us chasing crying and squealing raccoons in circles all around the first floor of the house along that circular path, with cake crumbs flying in all directions. I don’t know how many laps we and the raccoons made of the house before we managed to shoo them all out the front or back door, but eventually we were left with just the crumb trail and the remains of the cake.
The icing on the cake was mom’s reaction though. She went over to the cake and cut all the raccoon handprints out of it. We didn’t want to eat it, and I still remember her pleading with us, “Oh come on kids, try it. It’s still good!” Poor mom. She even took sample bites from the cake to demonstrate it was still edible, and convince us to partake in the treat that she’d worked so hard to make for us. I don’t think that we ate her cake, despite her pleading.
Thirty years later, it’s my turn. I spent an hour making chili today, and after dinner I put the left overs out on the back porch to cool in the slow cooker pot with the lid on. I’d planned to bag and freeze part of it, and put the rest in the fridge as leftovers for the week. It was cold enough out that I didn’t think that the raccoons would be out that early, but figured it would have been fair game had I left it out all night in the “outside fridge”. Well, those little buggers were a lot more industrious than I gave them credit, and by the time I’d come back from walking the dog, they’d helped themselves to a portion, lifting the lid of the slow cooker pot, and making a big mess of as much chili as they wanted. They ate quite a lot, but perhaps it had more spice than they cared for, as they left quite a lot:
Judging by the chili covered hand prints on the back deck I think they enjoyed themselves, despite the spices.
When I went upstairs to let Sofia know what had happened, she immediately connected the dots to this cake story that I’ve told so many times, and said in response: “Oh come on kids, it’s still good!”, at which point we both started laughing.
The total cost of the chili itself was probably only $17, plus one hour of time. However, I didn’t intend to try to talk anybody into eating the remains. It is just not worth getting raccoon carried Giardia or some stomach bug. I was sad to see my work wasted and the leftovers ruined. I wish Mom was still with us, so that I could share this with her. I can imagine her visiting on this very day, where I could have scooped everything off the top, and then offered her a spoonful, saying “Oh come on Mom, it’s still good!” I think that she would have gotten a kick out of that, even if she was always embarrassed about this story and how poor we were at the time.
There were 4 cans of beans in that pot of chili. I have to wonder if we are going to have a family of farting raccoons in the neighbourhood for a few days?