Five Raccoons

Coming out of the King Kullen parking lot, a light blue Oldsmobile with Florida plates cruised uncertainly ahead of me.  Was that an old man with a hat driving?  Suddenly I was reminded of my Poppop, John S. Nagy Sr., my maternal grandfather who passed away a year ago, with the honors of being both a New York City Police Officer and Veteran of War.  Not to mention world’s funniest grandfather who wore his old man’s hat with style.

The tears that came then were both of happiness and sadness – happiness that the memories of Poppop and the time we had spent together will always be with me – sadness that he is gone from this world forever, leaving his wife of several decades behind.  I think of him whenever the Mets play the Marlins, because he was both a Mets fan (being a native New Yorker) and a Marlins fan (having moved to Florida in retirement).

Wiping away my tears, I was driving down the long country road that leads to my house, when my headlights shone on a family of five raccoons crossing a yard ahead of me.  No one was behind me and I stopped short.  I thought they had stopped right in the center of my front end.  To be certain, I edged up and turned around.

No road-kill in the middle of the road.  There was one raccoon on the right side of the road, standing upright and keeping watch as the other ones re-crossed in the opposite direction again.  I watched as two cars sped by in the opposite direction.  Why did I care?

My Dad would have said it was good riddance.  In my childhood neighborhood of Bethpage, squirrels and raccoons were pests that were gotten rid of by multiple methods.  Drowning, carbon monoxide, and bb guns were common methods of killing them off.  A farming neighbor said that if you caught them and spray painted their tails and then drove them off to the state park, they would be back within three days.  My Dad did that and sure enough there were blue-tailed squirrels running up the Maples in my backyard three days later.

The next day I went to carve up the watermelon for the kids as they swam.  I searched the packed fridge and couldn’t find it.  “Where did you put the watermelon?” I yelled to my son.  “What watermelon?” he answered.  I ran to the car and found it under the backseat.  It hadn’t been fully ripe when I bought it – it was perfect now.

Why did I stop for those stupid raccoons? Again I asked myself, as I cut up the large, juicy fruit.  I brought it out to my husband, kids, and nephews, who jumped out of the pool and eagerly ate it up, throwing the rinds into the woods.  Some deer, or more likely a raccoon, would come eat them up, and then run out into the road on the other side.  Would they make it?

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller

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