My sister and I always tell the Chipmunk Story.
“It’s a fucking funny story,” she told me during a phone call this year. “It kills at parties. Also, it’s a good ice breaker — ha! — because the chipmunk was frozen.”
We lived at the bottom of three hills just outside Reading, separated from a college in the city by a thin strip of woods. Picture this slab of cement outside our row home. The sun spotlighted an orange tabby and a chipmunk. When I set the scene in my mind, I stand in shadow just ahead of the front door. The cat, farthest from me, has raised hackles. Zoom in on the chipmunk’s harried eyes. The chase is off like wind-up toys.
I stuck my hand into the fray to rescue the chipmunk — who promptly sunk his teeth into my thumb. He definitely misread my heroics. I think I flung the chipmunk down on instinct — I must have, right? — before hurrying to scoop it back up. Somehow, though I don’t remember the mechanics, the chipmunk ended up inside. My mom put it in a green Tupperware. She worried about rabies. She wanted to freeze the chipmunk and take it to work where the lab could run a blood test.
My sister and I were horrified. We spent the majority of our young lives crafting presentations on why our parents should allow us a hamster, after it became clear we weren’t gaining ground on the dog issue.
So we hatched a plan.
The second mom left the kitchen, we pulled the container from the freezer. I thought we opened the lid and the chipmunk darted across the stovetop. We had to scramble to collect it before our mom realized we’d liberated it. My sister doesn't remember that part.
She said we took the Tupperware to the room we shared upstairs, removed the lid and tried to feed cheese to the chipmunk. I don’t remember that part.
My sister also said she pictured a plain black cat at the beginning.
“I feel like I just put that in there,” she said.
Later, some light Googling of “Green Tupperware 1990s” yields images that don’t look like the bowl I imagine.
Our story was starting to unravel.
We both agreed that when the tests came back, they showed the chipmunk had a clean bill of health — no rabies.
Normally that’s the punchline, like, Hey guys, isn’t it ironic that in an attempt to save the life of a chipmunk, we actually caused its demise? Looking back, it’s a pretty morbid story. I’m surprised we usually got more laughs than dropped jaws. Or maybe I just forgot about those bad reactions.
But the funnier part, almost two decades later, is where our stories diverged. Why did it happen? My sister and I couldn’t figure it out. I guess we supplied specifics where our minds failed us.
Incidentally, I asked my dad if he remembered the Chipmunk Story.
“Yes, I remember it very well,” he said. “But you’re going to love this twist.”
When my dad pictures the chipmunk, he said he clearly sees mom putting it in the freezer in the kitchen we had after we moved to Texas.