The summer when I was around 9 years-old, well...it involved a lot of mid-day secret visits to my personal bat sanctuary. I would sweep up the poop, not knowing that there was a special name for it, and people prized the guano of cave-dwelling bats for fertilizer, and that it could, in the deepest, darkest caves and caverns, host an entire ecosystem all on its own. Of course, Dad found out, noticing while he was doing work in the barn, that it was far too clean, and told me that those bats had diseases like rabies, but were still neat animals, and that I should watch them with Mom at twilight, if she would let me. Mom, being the hippie that she was, and still is, really invited me into their world, and thus started a life-long Bat Fancy.
We watched the bats, far after my bedtime, next to a roaring fire. It was still light enough that I could see that they didn't seem to fly like any other bird I have ever seen. They practically zig-zagged through the sky like fireworks blasting from every direction. And the little squeaky sound! It was so faint, but Mom said if you listened really closely, you could hear a very tiny, high-pitched, almost clicking sound.
"Bat Music," Mom said. I saw her face glistening in the flicker of the fire as she looked up, with the same childhood wonder that I did.
"I love you," I said.
Well, that winter I missed the bats. I missed marshmallow roasts and playing in the fields' gigantic muddle ponds when it was irrigation time. I missed running around without any socks or shoes. And the school science fair's deadline was drawing near, and all I could do was reminisce about the summer.
My mother, who was always the expert at making suggestions, decided I should do a project about bats. All species of bats, all over the world, in fact. She told me they were really interesting animals, that they didn't have rabies, like my dad thought, and since I was so interested in them, I really should find out the facts. Let's just say that I learned them all. I won't repeat bat facts to you, although I can teach a mean primary school 'Bat' theme. Trust me, if there is an art project, storybook or film about bats, I probably know about it (although I can never know enough).
During the following cold winters, when we used to get so much snow our cars were buried, continued to encouraged science projects on more such misunderstood, perhaps strange beasties, as the cockroach and rat (and yes, I did have a pet rat once that I trained to throw hoops). I think she is part goth, part mammalian biologist wanna-be, and then part hippie. She also introduced me to after-school classic Vincent Price horror movies, so I guess you can be the judge of that one.
Thank you for inviting me to participate in this art event, and this blog. Thank you for allowing me to indulge in a self-absorbed trip back in time. Thank you, also, for allowing me the opportunity, once again, to enjoy and support my Bat Fancy, and to give my mother some much-deserved, albeit late, credit in forming whom I have become. A bit.