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Great Memories

October Always Reminds me of Chirpy

October 17, 2023

A crisp breeze and golden, twirling leaves signal the end of summer here in Pennsylvania which thrills me. A person can legally only take so many clothes off in sweltering heat and humidity, but you can always put more on once it cools off. So fall is time for my favorite attire, turtlenecks and corduroy jackets.

Most autumn days find me tromping through the woods, amazed at the bright reds and golds. My favorite thing to do is munch on a crisp apple, relish the beauty of the leaves, and listen to them crunch underfoot as I walk. Fall is also perfect for sitting on the balcony wrapped in a blanket, sipping a hot toddy and watching the leaves fall.

Last week as I was tromping, I saw chipmunks scurrying all around, so I gave the chipmunk kissing noise I honed to perfection when I was nine to get the attention of one. It stopped, poked its head out of the log it was hiding in and looked straight at me, like it was DeNiro saying, “You talkin’ to me?” I would have taken a photo, but was afraid I’d scare it away. We watched each other for about 30 seconds, which is quite long in chipmunk time, and I wondered if he was a small reincarnation of my most beloved pet, Chirpy.

I found Chirpy when I was nine years old. It was spring and I was playing in the woods with my cousin, near a dump, because that was where we found interesting things the neighbors tossed out. That was called kid entertainment in the 60s. We spotted a baby chipmunk who ran from us and curled up in a small empty can someone had tossed. My cousin and I waited and watched but the baby’s mother never came and I was worried because he looked so tiny.

My Aunt Jenny was visiting at the time. She was a wonderful aunt and a devoted animal lover, so we raced to the house to tell her about this abandoned baby. She walked down into the woods with us, and got him out of the can. She showed me how to feed him with an eye dropper and care for him. I kept him in a shoebox with lots of air holes poked in the lid and towels for warmth. Sorry Chirpy – I should have done better for you. That was his home from April to October.

He usually escaped his box, jerking his little head up and knocking the lid off, so we let him have free rein of the basement. Once I found him with a bloody nose and realized that keeping his box on top of the chest freezer was not safe because he had nothing to hold onto to to get to the floor to hunt. I imagined him sliding down the side and landing with a thud, so, I cleaned him up and tried to find a lower place that worked better for his escapades.

He was adorable. I loved watching him eat, picking up nuts with his tiny paws and chewing on them. He’d stuff his cheeks with peas and nuts and then scurry off to put them in his secret food hiding place. He was even cute when he slept, curling himself into a tiny ball of fur in his towels.

When I came home from school, I’d imitate the noises I heard him make which sounded like someone making loud kissing noises. As soon as I made the noise Chirpy would come running. He’d run up my leg and perch on my shoulder. I remember walking into a pharmacy with him once, and everyone was amazed at how he just sat there and didn’t move. He was the best pet ever. I’m so sad that I only have one blurry photo of him sitting on the shoulder of a family friend’s daughter as I hold my hand up to make sure he doesn’t escape. But at least it’s proof he existed.

A family friend’s daughter with Chirpy on her shoulder. It’s my only photo of him.

I wish I had known more about how to care for him, but we didn’t have the internet back then with information like 10 Things You Don’t Know About Chipmunks. And I didn’t think to look for a book in the library on chipmunk care since I had Aunt Jenny, my own personal Italian Charles Darwin. Chirpy seemed content, running around, storing his food in his secret hiding place, and getting ready for hibernation, so I wasn’t worried about him.

October 7th was my parents’ anniversary so my mom was cleaning. She was washing the basement floor with a water, Clorox solution and Chirpy got into it, drank some, curled up and didn’t move. I was devastated and felt terrible that I hadn’t known what she was doing because I could have protected him. My dad and I laid him to rest in his shoebox with towels and I swore I saw him twitch when we put him in, so later that night I convinced my sister, another animal lover like Aunt Jenny, that he might still be alive. I’d hoped that maybe he’d begun hibernation.

I remember the two of us trudging down our sloping backyard with flashlights in the cold rain that night. We got to the edge of the woods and I pointed out where my dad had buried Chirpy. My sister and I got my dad’s small army shovel and dug up his shoebox only to find that he was truly not with us anymore. I had to say goodbye again and we tucked him in his towel and re-buried his shoebox in the cold, damp dirt.

It broke my heart when I found his secret stash of nuts and peas in a corner below the bar in a back room of our basement. Pets can be a tough lesson for kids, but Chirpy gave me a life-long love of chipmunks, which I’ve passed on to my daughter. And now I love watching videos other chipmunk lovers have made of these tiny, furry creatures like this one: How We Made Friends With Chipmunks. Or this one featuring an adorable Chipmunk named Squishy, and this one about Charlie the Chipmunk and his human friend Borjana Apparently they’re pretty easy to befriend, all you have to do is patiently feed them.

I think I’ll start carrying nuts in my pocket when I walk in the woods. That way when I make kissing noises to get their attention, they’ll have a reason to stick around. (I should have tried that when I was young and dating.) I always laugh at how they stop and look, startled that I might speak their language. It makes me smile at the sweet memories. I really hope there’s a chipmunk heaven with no shoebox lids and all the peas and nuts Chirpy can stuff in his cheeks.

Note that one third of the bottle is gone and fall’s been here less than a month. Better get a couple more to get me through the winter.

I hope you enjoy these fall days like I do. When I’m not walking through crunchy leaves, I’m on my balcony, wrapped in a blanket, watching the leaves fall while sipping on a hot toddy. Here’s a recipe for a delicious hot toddy: Make a cup of Lipton Tea, add lemon, honey and my favorite alcoholic beverage, Rock And Rye.

It’s really scrumptious, and my mom swore it helped if you had a cold. Who are we to doubt her wisdom? And a splash of Rock and Rye gives great flavor to mulled cider.

So, enjoy a warm libation and please make kissing noises when you see chipmunks this fall, I’ll bet they’ll notice.

The Easiest, Best Mulled Cider

Yields8 Servings

 ½ gal Cider
 10 whole cloves
 1 cinnamon stick
 Rock and Rye whiskey


Pour the cider into a medium pot and add the cinnamon stick and cloves. Heat on low for about an hour until the spice flavors are incorporated. Serve with a splash of Rock and Rye, or more to taste. Enjoy!


 ½ gal Cider
 10 whole cloves
 1 cinnamon stick
 Rock and Rye whiskey



Pour the cider into a medium pot and add the cinnamon stick and cloves. Heat on low for about an hour until the spice flavors are incorporated. Serve with a splash of Rock and Rye, or more to taste. Enjoy!

The Easiest Best Mulled Cider

  • Reply
    Chas Madonio
    October 19, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    Hey Fran,

    This just confirms what I’ve suspected all along – that you are a little squirrel-ly. Seriously, this post is exactly why I like animals more than people. They love us and trust us with no reservations. I just hope Topper never finds out the you consider Chirpy your favorite pet and not him. Happy Fall – it’s my favorite season too.

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      October 19, 2023 at 7:46 pm

      Hopefully chipmunks don’t gloat in heaven. Topper will never know. Thanks for always reading and taking the time to write Chas!!!!

  • Reply
    Emil Mitchell
    October 18, 2023 at 12:00 pm

    Brings to mind the Kitties and two three puppies we’ve had these past 47 years of marriage, always loved and loving back. Some pictures, many memories with all of them and Our five daughters. Still look about during my early morning walks in and near the wooded arears we have lived in. Wouldn’t change a thing, many thanks for the post it too, gives to memories of past days. Love the articles, Bless you for sharing as always, stay well stay safe in these turbulent times. Chow!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      October 18, 2023 at 11:03 pm

      I’m glad my story struck a chord with you Emil. Thanks so much for taking the time to write! xo

  • Reply
    October 17, 2023 at 4:23 pm

    Bill & I can absolutely say the hot apple cider drink is delicious ! Thank you, Fran , for making some for us on Monday 😋 Also love your story about chirpy, and your Aunt Jenny. Your little chipmunk was well cared for and special childhood memories. Again so enjoyed our visit with you ❤️

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      October 17, 2023 at 9:19 pm

      Thank you JoAnn, for making the trip. We all enjoyed our time with you and Bill! So glad you were able to make it! Thanks for always reading! Sorry the layout was so wonky on this. I just fixed it, so it’s much better now. Get yourself some Rock and Rye…soon! You’ll need it for winter.

  • Reply
    Colleen Rudnicki
    October 17, 2023 at 12:51 pm

    Fran, I absolutely love this story. Great job as always – creating such a wonderful visualization. Memories of when we visit visited you as children and we would go into the woods and just goof off. And the wonderful memories of aunt Jenny, she was such a gem.
    It’s wonderful that you were able to enjoy chirpy long as you did. Their final hibernation‘s are always difficult to deal with. 😢.
    Thank you for posting the recipe for hot mulled cider. I love that a half a gallon of mulled cider equals one serving ha ha ha!

    • Reply
      Fran Tunno
      October 17, 2023 at 2:56 pm

      Yeah, I’m not too good on that whole serving, calorie part. But I’m glad you liked the story. Aunt Jenny was a total sweetheart. Glad the story helped you relive some good memories. xo

      • Fran Tunno
        October 17, 2023 at 3:00 pm

        Just fixed the servings! Thanks for the heads up. But if anyone wants to drink the whole half gallon, my hat’s off to you!

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