by J. A. Buxton
Memories of a kitty fritters, possum pie, and the rainbow bridge.
It was late, about 9:30 in the evening, when I finally arrived home after a long day at work. With the rain coming down steadily all day, I looked forward to a quiet and peaceful evening alone with a good book in the company of my animals. Since I don't like to come home to a dark house, the light in my front room was on leaving parts of the room in darkness. As was my nightly habit, a quick body count of my cats made sure that all six cats were safely in the house.
Two furry bodies on top of the bookshelf. Three more sleeping on the daybed. One hardly visible on the wide windowsill. One more hidden deep inside the tall cat castle in the corner of the room. As I walked toward the kitchen to get the cat food, I suddenly stopped to go over the count in my mind. Two and three and one and one make seven animals, not six.
I quickly retraced my steps. Sure enough, when I counted again there were seven animals in my front room. On the windowsill was a very large possum staring at me with frightened eyes. Evidently after coming in through the back hall cat door while I was at work, he decided he liked being in out of the cold and rain. It was a toss-up who was more scared.
"Come on, girl. It's just a little animal. Do something and don't just stand there". As I whispered these words of encouragement to myself, I finally decided I couldn't stay frozen in one position all night. By this time, I had an audience of six very interested cats who were sitting up with ears swiveling back and forth and eyes wide open. I could almost read their little minds. "Why isn't she feeding us? What new game is she playing?"
Moving ever so slowly as to not scare him even more, I moved toward the windowsill and reached out to unlatch one of the smaller side windows. The possum turned around to face me as I quickly opened the window all the while hoping he would take the hint and leave. About five minutes passed, and then he moved toward the open window and dropped down to the ground outside.
"What an adventure." This thought went through my mind as I swiftly closed the window. "My friends at work will never believe I had a possum in my house". This was my introduction to an animal that became part of my life for the next few years. The possum did return night after night to be waiting for me when I returned home from work. Since he was becoming a member of my small family, I decided to call him Possy.
POSSUM PIE AND KITTY FRITTERS
Over the next few months, I discovered what types of food Possy would eat. Of course, high on his list was the cats' dry cat food but close behind were cheese puffs. During the night, I'd wake up to the loud sound of Possy crunching his way through the bowl of cheese puffs left on the floor for him. Another favorite was a strawberry topped cheesecake pudding. He'd push this little cup of food all over the floor trying to get the last few licks of food out of it.
After eating, he would sit up on his hind legs and wash his face just as my cats did. They quickly got used to the new member of the family, even eating out of the same bowl side by side. Ralph, my big black monster of a cat, often curled up beside Possy as they slept in one of the cat beds.
However, I still kept my distance for, after all, this was a wild animal.
Since I always thought possums only came out at night, I was surprised one morning to see Possy slowly walking toward me from out of the back hall as I fixed my breakfast. He came over to my bare feet as I stood by the sink, unable to move quickly enough to get out of his way. After sniffing them, he must have decided toes wouldn't taste good and continued on his way to his food bowls.
Thinking back on it, I then did what might be considered a very foolish thing. Possy was facing away from me as I went over to him. My hand slowly reached down toward his back. Closer and closer my hand went until my fingertips were touching the back of his head. Possy then paid me the ultimate compliment; he let me gently pat him while he finished his meal. Thus, a friendship was started.
One night about 2 o'clock in the morning, I was rudely awakened by what sounded like an insane drummer playing very loudly out in the kitchen. I reached up and turned on the light. BIG MISTAKE. Instantly blinded by the light, I rolled over and fell out of bed onto the floor. The noise in the kitchen continued. I crawled over to a nearby wall and pulled myself upright. Heading toward the kitchen, I discovered a couple more walls. When half asleep, I have a tendency to run into and bounce off walls.
As I entered the kitchen, my cat Ralph ran between my feet causing me to fall once again to the floor. Precious, my one-eyed ginger cat, used me as a walkway to follow Ralph. The noise continued. Both cats disappeared behind the partially open kitchen shelf door.
On my hands and knees, I slowly opened the door all the way. There sat Precious in an old bent frying pan, rocking slowly back and forth. Ralph and Possy were playing with a number of pot lids. It was then that images of possum pie and kitty fritters raced through my mind. However, as five innocent eyes looked out at me, all I could do was mumble, "Keep it down, kids". I grabbed the pot lids and crawled back to bed with them.
Blessed silence descended over the house. About that time, though, I was tempted to ask my online friends for recipes for possum pie and kitty fritters.
The next morning I woke up covered with bruises and with indentation marks of pot lids on my arms. My sense of humor, however, being restored at this point, I decided I wouldn't need those recipes after all.
However, I kept the pot lids from that point on way up high on a shelf where cats and possums cannot reach.
Three years passed, and Possy, the cats and I lived together in harmony. The word must have gotten out for each spring new possums would come to eat the cat food and cheese puffs. Baby possums would race around the house chasing each other, run up and down the cat castle in the corner of the room while ducking into the cubicles to hide from the others or play a noisy game of tag on the plastic boxes under my bed in the middle of the night.
However, only Possy would let me get close enough to touch.
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
About three years after I first met Possy, I was working late one evening in my office when he came slowly into the room. He sat down about five feet away from my computer chair and went to sleep. For the next few hours, he would wake up, move a little closer to me and fall back asleep. By the time I was ready to stop working and turn off the computer, Possy was lying across my left foot sound asleep. I sat there for another hour in the quiet room just enjoying the company of this gentle little animal I had grown to love. Finally, I slipped my foot out from under his soft gray body and left the room after giving him a goodnight pat.
The next morning when I went into the office, I saw that our days together had ended. Possy had died sometime during the night, evidently of old age since he hadn't seemed to be sick or in pain the day before. As I buried him in my side yard under a lilac bush, I felt honored that he had wanted to spend his last few hours with me. The first night we met, the day I dared to reach down and touch him, that noisy early morning jam session with Ralph and Precious, and other wonderful memories raced through my mind causing me to smile even as I cried.
Perhaps someday, if I'm very lucky, another of the possums will feel comfortable enough around me to let me get close to him. This morning, one of the half-grown babies ran across my feet stopping only to sniff them.
Do you think I should try to touch him?