I was startled awake from a deep slumber. Sprawled across the couch in the living room, I waited for my mind to catch up before opening my eyes into two narrow slits. On the floor was my phone. I picked it up, holding the darkened screen to my face and squinting when its harsh light penetrated the darkness.
11:30pm. Ugh. A stereotypical morning person, I felt every bit of it as my head returned to the softness of the couch. I really wanted to go back to sleep but true comfort could only be found up the stairs and down the hall in my real bed. Could I make it?
I pulled myself up into a sitting position. This was the part I didn???t like- when you move around too quickly or open your eyes too widely that you just know you???ll remain awake for the rest of the night. Eyes partially opened, I headed for the stairs and heard the shower running behind the closed door of the upstairs bathroom. ???Okay, then,??? I thought to myself, ???I???ll just use the downstairs bathroom real quick and crawl upstairs right after.???
The downstairs bathroom has something of a backstory of its own. Since we moved into our house at the very beginning of the lockdown, we have not been able to get a handful of repairs taken care of. The biggest one is a pesky broken window in the downstairs bathroom. Being a special order, no one had been able to come take measurements until late last week. Therefore, it???s almost always cold in the downstairs bathroom at night or first thing in the morning. Seeing as how I didn???t have much of a choice, I pushed the door open, gently reminding myself not to let the cold night air wake me up any more than necessary.
I washed my hands and reached for the light switch. As the room quickly faded from bright to black, something oddly out of place caught my attention: a pair of big, black eyes attached to the side of the sink were looking right at me. It was as if the ceramic fixture had suddenly come to life in the early hours of the night and I had mistakenly walked into a real-life version of Toy Story about home appliances.
???No,??? I told myself, as I briefly paused in the darkened doorway. ???Sinks don???t have eyes. That was just my imagination.??? I trudged upstairs and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning, I had forgotten all about the midnight encounter with the furry-eyed sink. My day began as usual. Three hours later, I walked into the downstairs bathroom to wash my hands. Standing in the middle of the floor wasn???t a walking sink with eyes but a furry animal with grey and white hair. A possum, to be exact. Apparently, it had decided that our house looked warmer and cozier than its own and found the perfect entrance through the broken window.
I slowly backed out of the bathroom and gently closed the door. Reaching for my phone, I asked Google how to handle such an unexpected neighbor. Immediately, I learned some really interesting facts. Apparently - just like humans - possums are ???highly motivated by food.??? Like some of us, they are omnivores and disease-free. Feeling better about the situation, I cracked the door open and tossed some oranges into the bathroom to buy a little more time. While the possum - now nicknamed Hungri by my kids - devoured the oranges, I kept stumbling across a recurring storyline in Google:
Some people believe that finding a possum in your home is a sure sign that a neighbor is conspiring to make bad things happen in your life.
Being highly un-superstitious, I found the insight amusing but wondered how to work the random piece of trivia into a future conversation or column (problem solved!).
Soon enough, my kids and I managed to nudge Hungri into a clean trash can and safely transport it into the backyard. It walked away slowly, seemingly unafraid of his three human neighbors. It headed straight for the grassy corner between our house and our neighbor???s house where the trunk of a nice, big tree pointed up toward the sky with branches stretching out toward our house and theirs. It looked like a good home, as far as trees are concerned.
The very next day, while finishing lunch at the dinner table, my wife heard a sudden noise from just outside our door. From her vantage point, she could only see a shadow slide across the ground before halting at our front porch. ???Someone???s outside,??? she said in a sort of whispery voice, lest the unknown visitor hear us speaking about its intrusion from inside of our own house. ???They just walked up on the porch.???
Cautiously, I looked out the window. I saw no one. However, something yellow and obviously out of place had suddenly appeared on our porch just beneath the mailbox. ???Someone left a gift,??? I answered before walking outside to scan the quiet neighborhood for any other oddities. ???It has a note on it???and jewelry, too.??? I brought it to my face and read the following words:
From your new neighbor that picked your violets.
Katie & Kyle
I smiled. What an unexpected treat, that a neighbor would carefully sneak onto our porch - much like Hungri did two nights earlier - and leave a secret to be discovered on the opposite end of our house.
Call me odd, but as I set the dual gifts down upon the table for my wife to inspect, my mind returned to the unusual Google search from the morning before. I remembered how many people believe that finding a possum in your house is a sure sign a neighbor is wishing the worst upon you.
I laughed at the thought, thinking the exact opposite had just occurred. I imagined our violet-picking neighbor sneaking onto our porch, much like the possum, to place a heartfelt gift right there to be discovered. No strings attached, just a simple act of kindness for the newest neighbor on the block. How great is that?
I studied the handmade jewelry she had included, wondering how we could return the favor in as possum-like a way as possible. The gears began turning. We???d have to make it special. Surprising. Stealth-like. Thankfully, we???d learned a thing or two about stealth and neighborly surprises in the span of two short days.
Oh, it???s on and will certainly happen. With a little thought and effort, anything is possum-ble.