Buckle in for a terrifying ride on a story all my friends and family know by heart. The setting: our house, 7 months post-basement flood. The characters: my 1 year old daughter Eliza, myself, and a new arrival to be shared down the page. When I begin the story, I have a feeling most of you will jump to the ending in your mind immediately. It seems like most people that have lived in older houses or in the country have had something similar occur. But lots of other people have had kids besides us, and it sure as heck didn’t trivialize that experience for us.
One night, at 1 am, my wife woke to loud noises. She shot out of bed, paralyzed with fear, and I followed suit. It did sound like something was moving in our basement. So, being the personification of all that is man and husband, I grabbed a gun and a flashlight and started tiptoeing through the house in my boxers. I went room by room, into the basement, searched every closet, and never heard a sound. We returned to sleep a bit paranoid, but confident in our safety. The next night: same thing. The next night: same thing. The next night: same thing. I had tiptoed through this whole darned house naked and afraid (and armed) several times before we finally just assumed there was a critter in the floor. The sounds were absent for a few days and we finally got back to a normal night’s sleep…well, mostly; we did still have a 1 year old.
My wife went into work on a Saturday and it was a daddy-daughter morning! We played in the living room for a few hours, sat down to beat on the piano for awhile, and eventually returned to the couch for some reading. Eliza eventually grew bored and hit the floor for some exploring. She crawled near the piano and I let her mosey around by herself 8-10 feet away for 15-20 minutes while I read. With nap time looming, I got up to snag Eliza and literally jumped back when seeing a 98 pound sack of fur in the corner behind a low hanging curtain. WHAT. THE. HECK. We do not have any pets. I snagged my daughter in a blink and nearly ran out the front door before relaxing a bit. I inched back towards the fur-ball and saw a 200 pound possum still ‘hiding’ behind this thin curtain. It should be pointed out that this was LESS THAN 3 FEET from where my daughter was just playing by herself (my view of the possum was blocked from where I was sitting). 3 FEET. If she had noticed him, she would have thought “doggie” and pulled his tail.
With my nerves settled and my manhood challenged, I walked closer to the possum and moved the curtain. It was mostly asleep, barely inching open its eyes a shred to acknowledge me. Eliza was fascinated and chomping at the bit to pet this little intruder, assuming it was just another puppy like Nana’s lapdog. I hadn’t yet figured out a plan, but I already knew step 1. Take a picture and send it to my mother and sisters, hoping they’d be disgusted and horrified. Success. Now time to do the same thing with the wife…to no avail. She grew up in the country and her redneckedness did not permit surprise upon seeing this 452 pound monstrocity. Oh well. Eliza and I watched the possum sleep for almost an hour before my wife returned home and I could pass off my daughter to take care of the possum.
When my wife arrived, I showed her a selection of possum stew recipes I had located on the internet. She politely declined and it was time to get the 600 pound invader out of the house. I threw a plastic storage container on its side and nudged against the possum until it slipped in; once in, we paused for about a half an hour for pictures–because of course we did. My daughter finally said goodbye to Petey the Possum (we bonded to him quite quickly) and off I went with a tub o’ possum in the bed of my truck. I drove out 5-6 miles, threw the tub on its side, and watched Petey amble away through the brush to a better life.
It turns out that the dirt under a window well had receded back quite a bit, and some critters (maybe Petey, maybe one of Petey’s friends) had nibbled through the soft underside of the siding facing the ground and wormed their way into our floor (or basement ceiling; whatever the correct term is). We have no idea how long Petey had been rooming with us (I really should have charged him back rent for my troubles), but the hypothesis is that he had been going in and out with some frequency, occasionally coming upstairs to eat scraps off the kitchen floor. We have a babygate at the top step, so the assumption is that he never made it upstairs before because it was always barricaded. So, on a night we forgot to shut the gate, Petey came up, scavenged on some floor crumbs, probably cracked a beer, hit up the Netflix, and eventually passed out drunk under the window curtain. That’s the working theory, at least.
This is where I usually reflect on my experience and try to uncover some sage parenting lesson learned in the story, but I got nothing for this one. Parenting…where sometimes a huge dirty rodent will be in your living room. If you can parent a possum, you can father a toddler. If your daughter grows fur, drive her 5-6 miles into the country and let her return to the wild. I don’t know, I got nothing. The only thing I do know…is that I didn’t know much about possums that day, as I would later find out. More to come in the next post…
Quick site note: we are transitioning into a new publishing schedule. ParentalGrit normally runs EVERY DAY Monday – Friday, but we are cutting back to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in order to accomplish a few side projects such as upgrading the website. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you back Wednesday for more adventures in possuming.