...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself...
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
By COLLEEN LEDDY
Last Monday night as I was proofing pages in the back of the Observer office, I heard a strange squeaking noise that immediately made me think of bats.
On the occasions we’ve had bats loose in our house, I don’t think I’ve heard them squeak as they fly about. Probably I haven’t heard them because I am too busy screaming or running in the opposite direction when they visit.
But Observer bats are a different breed. It had been a long time since I’d seen a bat at the Observer, but I had this dim memory in the back of my mind that some kind of noise preceded their appearance. So I went out front to ask David what kind of noise bats make. I usually think of them as silent creatures in the night, but I figured David would know.
As I was telling him about the noise, he glanced into the back office through the window in the wall and said, “Wow! There’s a big bat flying around back there!”
I looked behind me through the doorway into the back office as I ran out the front door and I could see an enormous creature swooping around. I would have guessed a wingspan of at least six feet, but even I know that couldn’t be right. Still, I wasn’t sticking around to measure it.
I yelled, “See ya later!” and flew into the safety of our car. I did sit there a minute, thinking I should go back in and help David get rid of the Biggest Bat Known to Mankind, but my skin immediately started to crawl. I put the car into drive and headed home without looking back at all.
Home, where all the lights were out, where, shrouded in darkness, bats surely lurked—if not in the driveway, then on the porch where somebody’s husband keeps leaving a window open. Bubbling over with fear, I shouldered on, feeling my way up the steps onto the porch and opened the door into the darkness of the house, expecting bats to fly at me every step of the way.
It brought to mind the Worst Bat Experience of My Life. I wrote about it in a column almost seven years ago and when I reread it this Monday night it was as if it just happened. Here it is again.
And then, late one night last week, lying awake next to the slumbering David, I think I hear a bat stirring. My ears perk up and I’m sure I hear something, a little flutter of wings, perhaps, just a bit of a stir.
And, oh Lord, it’s right behind my head! I figure I must be imagining things, so I bravely reach back to check, to brush it away, and oh, my God, I touch it—and it flutters!
A horrendously loud, unearthly scream jumps out of my throat; I sit bolt upright in bed. Almost simultaneously, David knee-jerks awake, jolted out of a sound sleep.
Immediately, Maddie comes into our room. “What’s going on?” she asks groggily.
“There was a bat behind my head!” I shudder. “I felt it!”
David lies back down, exhausted, but relieved it’s nothing serious. He looks toward my pillow, his arm extended over it, his hand behind where my head had been.
“That wasn’t a bat,” he says wearily, and flutters his fingers. “It was me. I must have been dreaming.”
I felt like a real heel for startling my family awake, but, you know, I haven’t heard a single bat noise since I yowled that wild shriek.
I’m sure, if you repeat it often enough, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s quote could become an ironclad belief. I intone those words often and have started at least one column with that quote. But I want to tell President Roosevelt this.
Bats are fear itself. And I do fear, boy do I. I fear so much, I have to invoke his wife Eleanor’s advice.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
So, I did that thing. I faced my fears and scheduled Cranbrook’s Organization for Bat Conservation to do a show for the Summer Reading Program because I thought it would be great for kids.
I didn’t think I’d be able to stand it myself—purposefully bringing bats into my presence? But I knew I couldn’t let my fears stand in the way of educating children.
Little did I know when I scheduled them that the Morenci PTO had already arranged for them to visit the elementary school—last year. I think I was out of town that week waiting for a grandbaby to be born. Oy, to think I could have avoided living through this horror. Listen for the scream June 13.