Last spring, I volunteered to chaperone a 4th grade end-of-the-year picnic at a local park. I do not normally seek out social situations where I am thrust into awkward conversations with people whom I have nothing in common other than the fact that we have kids roughly the same age, but when it comes to my kids and their education, I make exceptions. I’m also not suggesting that I couldn’t have made a wonderful, new friend that day. But lasting friendships don’t usually blossom out of conversations had while hundreds of kids hang from monkey bars and consume watermelon like zombies do the heads of the living.
The park is really close to where we live, but I drove because I brought with me one of those giant thermoses coaches bring to sporting events. I brought this behemoth of a thermos because I was told to bring a gallon of water and I loathe plastic. I figured I would bring our industrial-sized thermos, the kids would have their own little water bottles to refill, and any other volunteers who brought water could bring those bottles back home again, allowing them a little more time on land before they end up discarded and eventually polluting the bottom of the ocean.
So, yeah. A giant thermos filled with water AND ice. This thing was not too light and its owner not too bright. I was able to get it into the car from our house and then out of the car and onto the street, but there was no way in hell I was able to get it from the car to the park benches, which were roughly 50 yards up an incline, a small one, but still: an incline.
I stood there on the street, above my giant thermos trying to come up with a plan.
“Roll it?” I thought. “No, that’s fucking crazy. You can’t roll the damned thing up there like Sisyphus. The lid isn’t secure and you’ll look like a crazy person. Also, what if one of the CrossFit moms see you?”
I was just about to put the giant thermos back in the car and give up on the environment for the day, when a woman walked up. “Can I help you with that?”
“Oh, that would be AWESOME. I didn’t think this through too well.”
“Are you a coach?” She asked. “Why do you have this thing?”
“It’s really thoughtless that I brought it. I didn’t even bring cups. I was told to bring a gallon jug but no cups. That’s odd, right?” I said, giving her way too much information, which I do whenever I am nervous. But instead of shutting up, I went on. “My husband and I occasionally do this ‘misfit soccer’ thing at Farrell field, but we aren’t coaches. It’s just for fun. We got it for that and to try and cut back on using plastic water bottles. I hate plastic.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of like soccer for kids who like soccer but are too nervous to actually play soccer because all the other kids who are REALLY into soccer are always telling them how bad they are.”
“That actually sounds kind of fun. Where is Farrell field?”
I start to answer this question, when she interrupts me, “OH! I know that field! WAIT A MINUTE! Are you the cake girl? Boudreaux? Is that your name? Do you live on _______ road? I’m Kimberly.” (Not her real name.)
I’m totally confused by this. I have no idea how she knows about my cakes and I don’t live on that road but I live close enough to it. I know nothing about this woman.
She goes on to explain who she is and where she lives—which house.
We drop the thermos off onto a picnic table and she continues, “You know, the one near the overgrown weeds? They’re a nice family, but I wish they’d do something about that yard.”
I have no idea what yard she’s talking about. I don’t know whose house she’s talking about. I still don’t even know where she lives yet.
I must have looked confused because she changes the subject and starts discussing our kids and whether or not our oldest children know one another. We decide that they do not. Other parents start to trickle into the park, kids too.
She changes the subject again to how dramatic her daughter can be and how she recently found a tick on her leg and totally freaked out.
“They’re really bad this year.” She said.
“Did you get the tick off of her? Like, the whole thing?”
“Oh, yes. Definitely.” She said. “But now she thinks they’re all over her all of the time.”
She changes the subject again. “You know what else is really bad this year? Mosquitoes. They’re absolutely awful. We can’t be outside for longer than a minute without being consumed.”
“I know!” I emphatically agree to this. “My husband and I just ordered a couple of bat houses for our yard—fancy ones, from Etsy! Some guy is hand-making these cool little bat houses. I am so excited. I love bats. I can’t wait to watch them devour the little suckers.”
“I’m sorry, but, bats.” She looks absolutely horrified, possibly even sickened by me. “Bats?”
Her voice has now changed an octave. I can’t tell if it’s fear, anger, disgust—but something inside of her has changed. And we have reached the “abort mission” stage of small talk. But it’s too late. I said too much.
“You do know about rabies, right? You do know that the treatment for rabies is HORRIBLE and it has to be done on your ENTIRE family, right? You do know all of this, right? BATS?” And then, finally, she says, “Where do you live again?”
“Um, up the street from you? Many houses away, like 7 or 10, many, many houses away.” Thinking this might make her feel better because the bats are already there to some degree only not nearly as many as I would like, I quickly add, “Our neighbors have a bat house!”
“Who are your neighbors?”
“I don’t know their name.” I lie.
“Well, please keep your bats away from my house. I don’t want rabies.”
We were in Walt Disney World last week. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and every night at around 8 PM the bats came out in vast numbers. They dashed across the sky in a choreographed madness. It was a spectacular show, a silent, magnificent army working to protect all the pirates and princesses.
I was mesmerized.
For the first few days, Toby was skeptical with my numbers, but there seemed to be SO MANY BATS. I was certain this was planned, orchestrated in some way. I suspected that the reason I was able to sit outside every single night and watch these wonderful little creatures was because of these wonderful little creatures. Furthermore, I suspected that Disney planned for this. I suspected Disney had bat houses all over the property to keep the mosquito population low and the comfort level high.
So, I finally asked an employee.
They do, indeed, house these bats. They do know they are there and they want them there for the very job they do so very well.
Two days ago, I was out for a run and I happened to run nearby to where Kimberly lives and I remembered the empty lot that sits on the same street but a bit further down and I had a thought that made me laugh out loud.
You see, a couple of weeks before we left for Disney one of the people on our local mailing list (Kimberly is also on that list) wrote to say that the plot of land is X amount of dollars and that’s quite cheap if anyone has extra cash and wants to build upon it.
When I got home from my run I told Toby my plan: we need to buy that plot of land and then hire the most talented, creative architect we can find and have him or her design the most elegant, kickass bat house anyone has ever seen. I mean, I want this thing to be in magazines. I want it to be world-famous.
And I want Kimberly to be able to sit outside for longer than a minute and not get any mosquito bites.