I washed a possum in the washing machine once. It wasn’t on purpose. I really don’t care how clean the neighborhood animals are. And I rarely invite them into my home for social functions. No, it was totally by accident. Years ago the house we lived in had the washer and dryer in the garage. And we lived close enough to a vacant field that we occasionally harbored wildlife. I guess I left the door to all the wrong things open. Our friend must have wandered into our garage, fallen in the washer and started on a good nap when I came to add a few clothes, shut the lid and start the machine.
No, I did not grab him and say, “looks like you need a dusting off old boy, hop in.”
And I certainly did not realize what had happened when I opened the machine the next morning. Half asleep, I reached out to move the wet clothes into the dryer. I was stopped by the strange odor. My clothes don’t normally come out of the washer smelling like the landfill. Then I saw what appeared to be either a very large rat or a very ugly cat. And a very dead one. After examining this sight for about a billionth of a nanosecond, I slammed the lid shut and went inside the house to write my husband a note. It read something to the effect that I loved him veryveryveryvery much and would do anything in the world for him and hoped he felt the same way about me because there was something dead in the washer and would he please get rid of it. Then I left for work.
I wasn’t a completely liberated woman at that stage of my life. God help me, I probably will never be that liberated. I’ve always agreed with the great television sage, Suzanne Sugarbaker from Designing Women, who decreed that “the man always has to kill the bug.”
When I talked to Beaven later that day, he assured me that the possum was gone from my life forever and went to heaven in a very clean condition. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
My brother was in the Navy on a nuclear submarine at that time. They were on a secret mission somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Each family member was allowed to send him two letters, which would be radioed to him. The rules were very strict: our message to him could be no more than 50 words and you couldn’t send any “coded” messages. This sounded simple but, actually, the 50 words was a real challenge. That’s not enough for a real story. But I wanted to use every word available and send a little bit of “home” to him. And to cap it all off, my life at that time was actually pretty boring. The most exciting thing that had happened to me in months had been Perfect Panty Day, when the youngest had finally gone all day with dry underwear. I couldn’t really expect Doss to get excited about that. Somewhere between “We’re all fine.” and “Take Care, We love you” I had to give him something interesting. So I included the sentence: “I washed a possum in the washer today.”
Somewhere at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, in the middle of the night, my brother was summoned brusquely from his bunk to see the Captain. I’m sure he was concerned and intimidated at the same time. The captain handed him the cable to read and demanded an explanation. “Allard, you know you can’t receive messages in code” My brother read the letter, threw back his head and laughed. “Captain, this isn’t a code, it’s just my sister. She probably DID wash a possum in the washer.”
Maybe in that quirky message I sent more of home to him than 50 words could say.