First of all, be warned because you’ll see some ugly things in this post. Things so ugly you’ll want to call your mom and cry.
So be warned. I just don’t want y’all to be mad at me down the road….
Once upon a time, Doc and I lived in Paradise:
The drive from med school took us 20 minutes down the interstate, another 10 minutes on a country road, and home was at the end of a gravel drive just past the state maintenance ending sign.
We moved out here as soon as we found out we were expecting our first munchkin.
We had cows and purple sunsets out the front window, the Blue Ridge with Humpback Rock to the southwest, piney woods behind us, and silence everwhere.
The fireplace didn’t work, the second story was uninhabitable by anything but raccoons, and since we were the first human beings to occupy the house in years, it had it’s share of bugs.
Oh, the bugs.
But they didn’t really get to me until I had my baby girl. Then the bugs had to go.
But that’s another story for another time.
And our landlords up the hill… I like to forget about that part though.
We lived here during Doc’s first year of med school. It was just lovely, just lovely. He would drive home from class where dinner would be waiting in the crockpot, and he would sit there smelling it until I got home from work- sometimes as late as 10pm. We would eat a late dinner then crawl into our double bed that completely filled the biggest bedroom in the house. We cherished every moment we had in that house.
Until….. we saw….. something in the fireplace one evening. It was long, black, shiny-dull, and had white markings all over it.
Was it this, a timber rattler??
It wasn’t a black rat snake- we had our share of those and welcomed them since we also had our share of mice. But I had never seem one with white ringish markings on it. The only thing it could be was a rattlesnake. And we couldn’t have rattlesnakes in the house.
Uh-uh. Nope. No way.
That was the beginning of many signs that our time in Afton was coming to an end. We also began finding toads hopping through the living room and wasps in the nursery crawling up the walls at night. I carried a baby black snake out of the kitchen in a dustpan once. The landlords started to renege on the original rent they had quoted us, which was already on the brink of unaffordable for us.
Then Doc got hit by a car as he biked into school one fateful day (there was zero parking for med students around the hospital so he had to park the car far out then bike in), and that was really truly the last straw. He was hospitalized for a week, and shortly thereafter I began looking for housing close enough to the hospital that he could walk.
We found an apartment- the only affordable place within walking distance of the hospital, and moved in that fall. We exchanged this out our front window:
For neighbors who had a wannabe prison yard set up nextdoor, a drug house across the street (the city finally condemned the place), ambulance sirens and hospital helicopters roaring over our heads, the nearby train making our house quake every time in thundered by.
It was different for sure, but Doc could walk (thank God he was alive after that), and I could sleep knowing that rattlers and wasps wouldn’t find their way into my baby’s crib.
The image of a snake in our empty Afton fireplace never left my brain, and a few days ago I took the Girlies to the WNC Nature Center. The first exhibit takes you through aquariums of all sorts of critters native to Appalachia.
I saw this:
And I found myself in the dark little living room with a low ceiling, standing up to turn off the lamp and go to bed, and the fleeting glimpse of black and white disappearing down a hole in the corner of a fireplace.
It wasn’t a timber rattler after all- This was what we saw!
My enemy’s enemy is my friend! So this little feller was my friend, after all.
But not in the house.
If it’s in my house it’s my enemy.
Anyway. I can finally rest now that I have a name for this intruder. And as much as I ache- yes, ache- to live in a place like Afton again where we could breathe- I think God was telling us it was time to move. We’ve lived in town ever since and we’ve had some beautiful and valuable relationships and experiences that we would have missed out on if we had stayed outside the perimeters like we wanted. So in the end, I’m thankful for the critters. I’m thankful for the crazy driver that mowed my husband down (*thankful*- although I hope for her sake we never meet). And I’m so thankful that God gave us Afton while we needed it, and kicked out butts out of it when it was time to move on.