Bats in the Belfry

I started the summer with a couple of blogs about birds. That’s old news.

We now have a bat. Not bats – plural – just one little Canyon bat that showed up several days ago and taught me a valuable lesson.

My sisters came to visit me for a few days. We don’t see each other much, but amazingly, it doesn’t matter. There is something about our relationship that defies time and distance.

Now, we three women could not be more different. Sheila is, by her own account, cautious, a devout Christian and pretty darn conservative. Ginna is 7 years younger than me. She is a Reiki master, an animal rights proponent (I was really nervous about cooking for her) and about as liberal as they come. I’m the oldest and if you think I’m liberal, I’m Attila the Hun compared to Ginna.

I love them both and we respect and love each other, but man do we have some interesting conversations. But, what does this have to do with the bat?

You know how some people freak out about snakes? Well, bats are my snakes. It probably stems from the time we had a bat in our house in Cleveland and I made Russ and our neighbor, John, “get it.” I’ll never forget watching them from the curb take a butterfly net, a dog and a tennis racket into our house to capture a 4-inch animal. (For the animal rights folks reading: the dog actually flushed it out and they captured it without hurting it.)

And then there were all the stories about vampires. I mean you would have to live under a rock to not know about Edward and the sparkling vampires of the west coast who don’t fly – they run super fast. I was raised on other slightly more sinister stories involving blood and wooden stakes and vampires whose mode of transportation was as bats.

So, a few days ago, this little bat showed up by the front door of the schnabin. I was sure that we were going to have a rerun of the Cleveland story or worse, so you should picture me sitting on my deck in my hoodie prepared to cover my head just in case this creature decided to wake up and swoop down on me unexpectedly. I was pretty sure he was going to get stuck in my hair. I was also pretty sure that he was going to wake up from his nap and fly into the house, so every time someone went in or out of the door I made sure it was shut tightly. Sheila was right there with me.

On the other end of the spectrum were my two little grandchildren, Drew and Hazel, who thought this was about the best thing that I could have provided in the way of entertainment. And Ginna added to the glamour, telling them stories about bats, where they lived, what they ate and other interesting factoids.

We named him – Barnabas – for those of you who do not know the significance – see the 1960’s soap opera Dark Shadows.

A funny thing happened: Once we gave him a name, I noticed a significant shift in my thinking. I actually felt like I knew him – maybe even could get to like him. I had to admit; he was kind of cute – sort of like a tiny hamster hanging upside down sleeping.

Isn’t that what happens when we put a face to a “problem?” It’s easy to talk about the illegal immigrant, until you meet him. Or the homeless person until you actually sit down and talk to her. We all have stories. We all deserve to be valued as creatures of this universe.

I had so many old, stupid stereotypes tucked away that I couldn’t see Barnabas until my sister and my g-babies made me really look at him. Damn, he was cute and so small that if he ever actually got stuck in my hair, I could simply pick him out and send him be on his way. And by the way, he eats bugs and does not suck blood, so that’s a bonus.

On the last night that my sisters were here, Ginna sat with Drew and Hazel at dusk as Barnabas woke up. I joined them (sans hoodie). It was kind of cool. We watched him wiggle around and stretch out his wings and finally fly away. I’m not gonna lie – the wings were a little creepy, but it was like watching one of the god’s creatures get ready for their day (or the night shift in this case). Pretty cool.

Everyone left for home yesterday. I got up this morning and checked to see if Barnabas had returned to his perch. Alas, he wasn’t there. He must have sensed that those who accepted him had gone. I hope he comes back. I promise, I’ve learned my lesson.

An Open Letter to my Grandparents re: Bruce Beach

Dear Nana and Grandpa,

We have two family gatherings this summer. The first is the gathering of our immediate family in Colorado we call Schningerfest. The other is the Masson family reunion in Kincardine. Both of these events are the descendants of an annual ritual established by you two.

Children grow so quickly and seeing the gbabies this summer I couldn’t help but think about how much they will change before the next time I see them. I suppose if I lived in the same town as they do, I might feel differently, but only seeing them every 6 months or so compounds the feeling that I am missing so much of their lives.

I think you felt that way about us too. Your family was scattered and you only saw us once a year for many of my formative years. I’m pretty sure that’s why you bought the cottage at Bruce Beach. It was your way of making sure we would stay connected.

So, this weekend we will celebrate that tradition. Not all of us will be there. Some are gone and some live too far away. Some of those attending will be there for the first time. They weren’t even born when we cousins picked raspberries and built tree forts. They never experienced bonfires on the beach or swam to “the rock.” No one ever told them the story of the seaweed monster or watched them skinny dip in the cold Lake Huron waters. They didn’t read all of the James Bond novels before they were movies or swing in the big swing at the back of the cottage out of the wind. They never used the outhouse (or painted it) or tried desperately to tune in CKLW on the 1950s radio. They never experienced a north blow or roasted marshmallows over the fire on chilly evenings.

And there are so many other memories to share: The “bunny rabbit” store and anchovy paste on toast in the morning. Cheese bunnies and learning to dance under the tutelage of the farm girl who came to help out every summer. The rope swing, the golf course, the tennis court, the nightly games of baseball on the beach umpired by Mr. House. Buying fresh bread in town with a quick stop at the “dime” store and a drive by of the “diamond” house. The Pine River cheese store and picking up fresh eggs at the farm at the top of the hill. Marking on the closet door how tall we’d grown over the last year, and best of all, marching down Main Street behind the Pipers on Saturday nights. Well, maybe second best – let’s not forget my honeymoon and the weekend the whole Tom Masson clan showed up to “chiverie” us.

What memories are we making for our family at Schningerfest? It would be fun to ask them, but I’ll guess for now. I’d say the Hot Springs and the BIG slide, hiking, camping in the Aspens, s’mores, tie dying shirts, “dance party,” the Kitty fort, hot chocolate at the Roastery, Lake Marmee, dress up, painting with Diddy, the park, making “sand” castles by the Arkansas River, yoga on the deck, star gazing, excavating for arrowheads and panning for gold, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, and, of course, cousins.

We all hope to leave a legacy of some sort. You gave us Bruce Beach, but more than that, you instilled in us the importance of family – tied together with the memories we share of those summers. That tradition has continued at the Windover compound in Michigan, at John and Mary’s cottage on Lake Huron and at Uncle Peter’s cottage on Lake Rosseau. We are blessed to be able to join in with the Schnabin.

Thank you Nana and Grandpa for having the foresight to begin it. We are proud to continue in your footsteps.