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Stocking Up
by Amy Kenneley

There's a very young squirrel jumping from branch to branch outside my living room window. During the summer months, he was exploring his new world, gradually gaining confidence and speed. I imagine his mother was watching from a safe distance as he tried his squirrel agility-tail twitching, scurrying techniques, acrobatic jumps. Not being a squirrel expert, I am taking liberties with the squirrel's gender, but for convenience I am making him a "he."

As fall approached and the leaves turned brilliant orange and red, the little squirrel picked up his pace, jumping from branch to branch across the length of the trees bordering the house. Safe from most predators, he never touched ground.

First, he was gathering pine nuts. The evergreens near the front porch provided a hanging pantry of cones waiting to be picked clean of their meat. Back he would run across the branches, his mouth crammed with pine nuts. Now he has moved on to acorns.

This requires more effort, as the back yard has other squirrels vying for the same winter food. Looking for an opening, he selects his target and dashes down. Acorns are bigger than pine nuts, so he must collect them one at a time. He buries them here and there, which naturalists have declared a haphazard way of stocking up for the winter, since squirrel "memory" is not all it has been cracked up to be. Pun intended.

His antics have amused me through the season, but now he has wakened me to the realization that I, too, must stock up for the winter. Let's see: Lots of cans: soups, vegetables, broths, quick- fix meals. Oh, and pet foods. How much meat can I reliably freeze or afford to lose in a power outage?

There is more than food to be considered: The stakes are in place for snowplowers, the gutters cleaned of packed leaves, the candles ready for a darkened house, window screens down and storm doors latched. Outside furniture stored. Yep, I'm ready for winter.

But wait. There is something yet to prepare for winter: Thanksgiving. You know, that holiday of turkey and pumpkin pie? The salt-and-shaker Pilgrims and basket weave cornucopias have already been marked "Half-Off" on store clearance shelves, just as we are in a hurry to rush the seasons.

Room must be made for Black Friday, the shopping extravaganza to end all President's Birthday, Columbus Day, July 4th, Easter, and Halloween combined. Why is it called that, by the way? Do we descend like carrion crows on merchandise? Or does that mean the economy moves from being in the red to in the black? Must have missed that memo when it was named.

Well, the economy does need the promise of Christmas. Manufacturers need to sell their products. Farms need the income that a full spread on a table brings. Folks need the jobs.

Maybe Black Friday is the nudge we need to stock up for Christmas as well.

And we do need a little Christmas, especially now. Especially when so many folks around the world aren't feeling the urge to splurge. They are just hoping to get through the day without starving, or running from terror, or getting killed.

This Thanksgiving, maybe you will be in a long line outside a store waiting to get that great bargain. Maybe you will be standing on your feet all day waiting tables, cooking a meal, driving people places, policing the streets, taking the night shift in emergency. Maybe you will be walking a post on the other side of the world, or walking the deck of a ship somewhere on the ocean. Wherever you may be, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Our blessings are so many, and we know where those blessings come from, don't we?

As for me, I am keeping an eye on that little squirrel to see if he really knows where he buried all those acorns.

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