Sometimes I am surprised by the way that wild mammals have adapted to our urban streets. In particular, I feel a reflexive startle whenever I suddenly meet a raccoon in the middle of a sidewalk or see a trio of teenage raccoons in my little backyard, even though they’re always respectfully masked. However, if you approach these fellow Wallyhood residents with interest and appropriate social distance, you will see how we all want the same things: a snack from Irwin’s, a chance to enjoy our family lives, and a way to safely get across North 40th.
One late spring evening I was walking with my partner west on 40th and I saw something between two parked cars. As I got closer I realized that a racoon mother was hunched protectively over a kit. The mother waited for a gap in the flow of traffic, and then nudged the kit forward. The kit was not willing to move, and soon the mother recognized that it was not going to cross the street under its own power. She picked it up at its nape and quickly trotted across the street. We saw her slip under a fence to the thicket at the base of a tree. The kit disappeared but the mother kept glaring at us from under the fence, as we stood there staring.
I then heard a high-pitched noise and saw another kit, back on our side of the street. We finally took the hint from mother’s glare and backed off another dozen steps. Mother then trotted across the street to where her other kit awaited. But this kit didn’t want a ride. It gradually went across one lawn and crossed the street, nudged from behind by an impressively firm yet accommodating mother. I was reminded of a toddler demanding that mother stand and watch while working it out “all by myself!”
I felt such kinship across species from this glimpse. The drama of family life shows up in all sorts of families.