Monday, October 19, 2015

Our Musical Opossum

Every once in a while, I’ll awaken in the night to hear Grandma’s windchimes* dinging and donging far in excess of what any current breezes might naturally cause.

I came to the conclusion that it must be a “critter” out there on the handrail at the top of our back porch steps. We have had raccoons, opossums, and half-feral cats perch, at times, on that wooden railing. The long, metal tubes of the windchimes stretch down from the soffit nearly all the way to the railing.

Maybe critters view the windchimes as a possible way to access the roof of our house. Like an incredibly noisy, hard-to-grasp rope ladder. Maybe that’s the attraction.

Anyway, we finally caught ol’ “Tuffy”** in the act a few nights ago. Sorry, there are no pictures—I’ll have to paint it for you with words.

It was well after dark. We were sitting on the sofa on the sunporch, reading Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley to each other—and that clanging started up. It was not particularly windy, but the chimes were dinging and donging so vigorously that it might have been someone swishing his hand among the pipes: Ding-dong-dinga-donga-ding-dong-ding-ding-donga-dong!!

“Sue! Shh! Let’s see what’s out there!”

We snuck up quietly to the door between sun and screen porches—unlocked it carefully—swung it open—and caught “Tuffy” red-handed!

No joke: He (or she) was on his back haunches, with his arms upraised, “playing” the windchimes with his little pink opossum hands as if he were stroking the strings of a harp.


He quickly sensed we were watching him and immediately withdrew to a crouching pose, still perched on the railing. He turned his head to face us, nose-down, unblinking, in that way they do—like they’re looking over their eyeglasses. You know—that opossum deadpan expression that always seems to sigh: “Seriously? Surely you are not going to make me have to run away—are you? Come on . . . seriously??

We retreated quietly back into the sunporch, closed the door between us, and “Tuffy” likewise retreated silently down the back porch steps.

A half hour later, it occurred to me that we had an extra apple we’d acquired during our recent trip to northern Ohio. A mini-Cortland, ooh-la-la. I placed it at the top step, in case “Tuffy” returned.

Musicians should be paid for their efforts, I believe.

No, we don’t make a habit of putting food out right by our back door for the opossums. But just this once, I did.

About 4:30 the next morning, I again awoke to “dinga-donga-ding-dong-dinga-donga!” By the time I arose, the apple was gone.

And that’s the story—so far—of “our musical opossum.”

* Realize that I’m compelled to call them “Grandma’s windchimes,” because from my perspective they were “always” here at Grandma’s house, and seemed an extension of her personality. One could always hear them dingle-donging just outside the bathroom window, or while sitting out on the sunporch. When we bought the house, we saw no reason to take them down or move them. Like so much else at our house that we technically own, I feel like I’m just a “caretaker.”

** We call every opossum “Tuffy.” We just do.

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