After coming home late this evening from my mother's where we celebrated my sister's birthday, I hurriedly brought in three loads of laundry from the line. Almost everything had dried stiff and scratchy and full of sunshine and wind and the prayers of thanksgiving I had uttered while I hung each towel and sheet.
I had told my sister I had to leave her little party early because I was afraid of seeing a 'possum when I went to the clothes line. Although Frankie, my wiener dog, raises his hackles routinely as he guards the yard, nothing is afraid of him except a silly pit-bull-faced-bushy-tailed neighbor dog that my younger daughter thinks looks ferocious. Frankie runs all over the field and into the weeds barking at rabbits and gathering ticks. Lucy, my other wiener dog, is deaf with old age. She doesn't wander as far but spends most of her time sniffing the clothes as they come off the line or wallowing into the wild onions that are everywhere on that side of the yard. If I pay too little attention to her, she licks my toes until I acknowledge her.
Even with companions like these, who isn't scared of 'possums that are bold enough to come up to you at the clothes line in the gathering darkness?
I'm scared of a lot more things now than I was as a kid. I'm scared of the darkness that envelopes the yard after dusk. The skies will still be blue and clear, but not the yard. It's full of shadows that could harbor anything at all. My grandmother told me that's where the Booger Man is. Who's to say she wasn't right.
I'm scared of twilight and the mosquitoes and not being able to make out what a noise is. It's a perfectly wonderful and delicious shivery unease that I remember as a little girl as I willed my feet to fly home on the dirt road from my cousins'... surely something pursued but never quite caught me....
Then night comes and the mystery is completed. The dusk-to-dawn lights speckled across the 30-or-so miles we can see from the back of our house become our neighborhood and someone is home. The frogs sing. Whippoorwills call to one another. Crickets chirp. Sometimes I hear owls. Oftentimes I hear the coyotes as they meet up for the evening.
During the summer, my sister and I, along with our mother, gather ourselves into blankets and watch the stars. It's cold out at night no matter the time of year and you always need a blanket.
And you lie there and feel important. The same God that made all of these made each of us.