For days before driving to Brevard, NC and the 5th Annual White Squirrel Festival, where I spent two wonderful days reading and signing books at The White Squirrel Shoppe, I was stumped! What could I bring as a snack for the children that was not messy, did not pose a choking hazard, was allergy-free and did not have a paper wrapping? Nuts were obviously out as were lollipops, candy kisses and crumbly pretzel sticks. Thinking, “What would white squirrels like to eat that children like too?” it suddenly came to me. Marshmallows! I could offer the children white, fluffy marshmallows and have a little fun with it all claiming it to be a favorite food of white squirrels!
Excited over my own brilliance and creativity I located our large white pasta bowl, stuffed several packages of marshmallows into my bag and headed north into the mountains. Just before the children gathered for the first reading, I piled the bowl high with marshmallows and, as I took my seat while holding the treats high and out of sight, asked “What do you suppose is the favorite food of little white squirrels?”
A darling six-year-old strawberry blonde in the front row raised her hand. Then, with a smile and one of the sweetest voices you have ever heard, blew me out of the water!
“Buddy”, she said, “That’s the name of the white squirrel who lives in the woods by my house and comes to eat on our patio every day, likes to eat nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits. Corn on the cob is one of his favorites!”
My fluffy white marshmallows suddenly weighed a ton and seemed about as appropriate as a filet mignon at a vegetarian pot-luck. Stalling for time to think, I did what I always do in such situations. I asked a question.
“Wow!” I said. “You really have your very own white squirrel come and visit you?”
“Oh yes!” she replied. “And we know it’s Buddy because of the triangle of grey fur on his forehead. He’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”
The dialog was just long enough for me to catch my mental breath and, as my Chinese neighbor used to say, “Save face”.
“Well,” I asked, stretching my neck to peer over the top of the bowl, “What do you suppose little white squirrels like to eat for dessert?”
Silence; I had them! I lowered the bowl with a flourish and, with a corporate gasp of surprise and delight, one by one the children exclaimed, “Marshmallows!”
As the group of children at my feet merrily munched their marshmallow snacks I began, “It was springtime in the mountains…”