I was completely lost in my work, so awareness of the screen door banging dawned slowly. It seemed softer than usual. Did I really hear it?
The "usual" volume is when Emma, with all eight pounds of her furious feline indignation, wants in. Well into old age at 18, she's gotten more and more demanding with each year, so by now has no tolerance at all for being made to wait when she wants in. She goes to the back door, sits on the step and hits the screen door hard enough to make it bounce on its hinges and bang in its frame. She bangs and yowls with such frantic intensity that she never has to wait for long to be attended to.
This old-fashioned wood frame screen door is one of my favorite possessions, right up there with the clothesline and the blueberry bushes. Walt installed it right after we moved in almost twenty years ago, adjusting the tension of the spring, at my request, so the door would bounce gently as it closed. The quiet clapping sound of wood against wood is music that soothes and sings, "Home."
I'm not entirely sure why I love the sound of a wooden screen door. We didn't have screen doors at all in my growing up home. It was cheaper to hang obscene yellow ringlets of fly paper everywhere than it was to buy screens. In all my other homes since then, the screen doors have been utilitarian metal.
My only remembered experience with the wooden bounce of happy doors is from books and old movies where they were always (in my imagination at least) attached to homes full of love. Pollyanna comes to mind - even at the price of paralysis, I would have given anything to be her and to live her life. I can picture the gingerbread be-decked Victorian screen on the front door of her house even now.
In current time the wooden screen door melody is just part of the background music of my everyday life. I don't really hear it the dozens of times a day I open the door and release it to close - usually to let a cat or Toby in or out. I don't really hear the clock chime every quarter hour or the hum of the freezer on the other side of the wall from my desk either, but I do hear when they're silent.
So when I thought I heard the door bang, however softly, my first thought was to wonder how Emma got out because I had just seen her in her chair (actually my rocker). Something was out of synch. I got up from my desk chair, walked to the back door, opened it and saw nothing through the screen. No Emma. No Toby (who was in sleeping on our bed). No wind blowing.
Puzzled, I expanded my visual search to the edge of the patio and into the yard, where I saw a Douglas squirrel scampering away from me toward the protection of the Sweet Gum - his favorite hangout. Dougie!
These tiny little squirrels are fearless, aggressive, and sassy. They frequently chase away their much larger cousin Gray squirrels to get to the sunflower seeds. I laughed out loud in wonder and delight. The little rascal had braved the cold gray expanse of patio concrete where a red giant often sleeps and strange giant squirrels with sharp claws lurk, to come knock on my door.
I have no idea why. I only know he knocked, and then ran like hell. I hope next time he'll stay and chat, or at least wait for me to offer him a treat. In the meantime, I'll be listening a little more carefully for the music of my favorite door.