3:06am Election Day 2018
After five months in the ground, my Night-Blooming Jasmine is finally blooming. I bought the plant during early summer at a flower and fruit tree sale in Gainesville, and planted it right outside my back door for maximum effect. Then waited. New leaf growth looks deceptively like blooms. So, I was deceived many times. But then the sprigs of tubular blooms started. Tonight (this early morning), I opened the door leading to the laundry room and I inhaled the blossoms for the first time.
The scent was not what I expected. There is no sweetness, no cloying honey to the nose. Instead, these blossoms have a green fragrance more akin to the smell of clothes in the washer. I am just a little disappointed. I really wanted to stick my head into a mass of sweetness.
I leave the outside door open most nights. It’s an entryway for my cat, who tires of protecting the property, and nestles on the soft cushion of a chair. The cat, a big, furry girl named Gary Grey (my mistake), will come and go and I am fine with that. There are fences all around my back yard so I rarely fear an intruder.
One of the benefits of an opened back door is the family of opossum. We just call them possums but their technical name includes the ‘O’. I have counted four separate possum – two young-uns, one gnarly adult with a scar across its forehead and a skin flap hanging below its jaw, and another huge adult with a blackish back that I’ve seen only once. I have fallen in love with the possum, mostly because of the two small ones. They have long, white snouts, scary-looking claws and ugly, hairless tails. But the young ones have adorable faces.
Possums are the only marsupials of North America. They leave the mothers birth canal and crawl into her pouch where they develop for months. When they are large enough, they crawl out of the sack and onto her back. The mama possum then carries her little joeys around for months before they fall off for the final time and migrate on their own. The mama possum, called a jill, can give birth to 15 or 20 offspring, all from the same male (jack).
My two joeys may be part of a larger litter. I can hear them late at night, bumping into pipes under my kitchen sink. Sometimes they complain or cry, with chittery-squeaky sounds. At any rate, I have a nest of possums under my home, and they come to my back door every night, making their scratchy way past the night-blooming jasmine and fallen leaves. Now, I regularly buy a bag of unshelled peanuts for them. They eat them whole for the most part, leaving shreds of the shell. The other night, I gave them slices of apple. They eat apples. And red grapes.
My possums have become a nightly wonder. When I am up at 3 in the morning, I sit in my laundry room before the open door and wait for them. I hear them before I see their white snouts and dark eyes, cautiously moving step-by-step toward the peanuts. On several nights, I‘ve sat just a few feet away while one comes in to eat the cat food. Gary Grey lies at my feet and is undisturbed by these visitors. They are noisy eaters and lap water very quickly. As a species, they have terrible vision, which seems to worsen as they grow older. These are docile creatures. They do not carry disease (like the raccoon – another story), do not attack and are prey animal to many, including my cat. When frightened, they will hiss or run or play dead. I’ve seen all three actions.
It is now 4am. No possum sighting tonight – just the peanut shell fragments and the empty cat food bowl. I am dreading the results of the election. I want it to be over. I want normal sleep. Even it it means I miss my dear possums and the antiseptic-smelling jasmine.