A newly single mom copes with winged creatures
July in Fairfield County is “bat season.” It’s when all the baby bats stretch their wings and start testing them out, flying in haphazard, zig-zag flight patterns, which sometimes land the adventurous newborns in a whole heap of trouble. Take the bat that ended up in the floor air vent of a house I had been renting.
A young police officer from Animal Control came over and told me to cover up the vent, which sounded like a good idea if you know absolutely nothing about bats. The next day we found it hanging upside down on a tapestry in my daughter’s bedroom, snoozing. I still shudder when I think of it. And as much as the logical part of me knows that bats are good, eating as many as 4,000 mosquitoes each per night, I would prefer that they find a way to go about their upside-down-business somewhere away from me and my family.
The next time it happened I was on the phone, lamenting to a friend about the challenges of being a single mom. This newly earned status had strong-armed me into roles such as Garbage Man, Handyman, IT Specialist, and now Bat Chaser. And to be honest, I resented all of it. I hate killing spiders as much as my kids do, but still I put on a brave face and pretend to be nonchalant as I squash them.
As I reflected on this, a black whoosh sailed past me and I immediately knew I was in trouble again. So I did the only thing I could think of—I ended the call I was on and phoned my neighbor, Cindi. If anything, she is reliable, willing to help, and always ready for an adventure. Five minutes later, she barreled through the front door wearing a jean jacket, shorts, and a baseball cap, and was carrying an enormous fisherman’s net. The net, attached to an aluminum pole, was four feet wide and almost as deep. Her battle gear put the plastic Shop Rite bag I had thrown over my head to shame.
Meanwhile the bat had soared again, through the kitchen toward the family room, looking for its next resting spot. Quietly, we tiptoed toward the kitchen as if the silence of our steps would give us an advantage. Cindi crouched as she shuffled sideways, net held at the ready. Because the family room contained three full walls of windows and curtains we decided that the bat must now be hiding in the curtains. A wood louvered door separated the two rooms, so our plan was to seal up the louvers to trap the bat in the family room. We got to work, ripping off pieces of neon pink and yellow duct tape that I had found in my daughter’s room, patching up each opening until it was sealed tight. Our finished product looked like a psychedelic scene out of Austin Powers.
Feeling triumphant, Cindi and I decided to call my daughter, Cami, who was at her dad’s house, to do some bragging. Standing in the kitchen, we positioned the net between us and brought up her face on my iPhone screen. “The bat’s in there,” I explained, casually gesturing to our family room and, with an air of inflated confidence, added, “So you don’t have to worry when you come home from school tomorrow.” Proudly we held up the phone so she could see both of us.
“Mom,” Cami responded, “the bat’s flying around right behind you.”
Turning, we spotted the black flapping wings. The fishing net clanged to the floor as we screamed and ran, fighting each other for the front door, finally collapsing outside on the lawn, laughing. And once we started laughing, we just couldn’t stop. Life is like that, I guess. Once you think you’ve got everything contained, you turn around and discover that the thing that you thought you’d contained just gave you the finger and did what it wanted. Sometimes the only thing left to do is laugh.
What I remember most about that night was that it felt okay to be on my own. As long as I had friends around to arrive in the nick of time with a huge net and an exit plan, I would be okay.
Sometimes life feels upside down. Sometimes we are flying blind. But friends offer us the sonar we need to find our way back home.