Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 22: Batty

My cousin Annie, on my mother’s side, reminded me of an incident with her brother Dennis when he had stayed at our house. My father was in the hospital recovery from surgery and Mom had asked her sister, Ann if Dennis could come down and help in the store.                                                                          
My Aunt Ann had five children, starting with Dennis the eldest and only boy, Annie, Susie and twins Gracie and Gladys. I loved whenever my cousins would visit us. We got into a lot of adventures together. They learned about life in the big city and when we visited their home, we experienced the wonderful world of nature. Bugs did not scare my cousins, but we city kids ran for cover.

cousins Gladys, Gracie, Aunt Ann, Susie, Anna with me
My Aunt Ann lived in New Gretna, New Jersey, and to us city dwellers, this was considered the middle of nowhere, hick town, and the big scary Pinelands. Goes to show you how much we knew. My mother was afraid of nature in general so anything not covered in tar and cement was too wild for her to visit.
Mom would occasionally allow us to spend a few days with my aunt and cousins at their home, but most of the time, my cousins visited us. Now that I’m older, I wish we would have visited their home more often, because I feel we missed out on a lot of fun with our cousins… anyway, my older cousin, Dennis, spent the week with us, helping my mom run the grocery store. He also handled the heavy stock boxes and whatever else needed to be done.
It was summer and we slept with the windows open. We had window screens but, my brother poked holes into most of the screens. When asked about this, he told my mother that it was a science experiment. Michael did a lot of science experiments and there were holes in most of our walls. He loved playing pirate and was looking for gold…he never found any.

                                                                Brother Michael
Now before I go further with this story, you have to understand that in South Philly during the late 50’s, there weren't that many  trees for blocks and blocks. Our version of wildlife was squirrels, pigeons and the occasional sewer rat scampering along the curb whenever the streets were dug up for one reason or another.
One night, as my sisters and I were settling in, we heard flapping and squeaking sounds. What the heck? I switched on the overhead lights and saw this big dark shape flying around the bedroom. We had never seen anything like it…except in horror movies. It was a vampire and it was in our bedroom. All hell broke loose.

My sisters and I began screaming that a vampire was in our room. My mother, groggy from sleep, realized what it was and tried to cover our heads. “Don’t let it get in your hair,” mom screamed as she pulled a pillow case over her head and tried to do the same with us.
Dennis and my brother Michael ran into our bedroom when they heard the commotion. But, after the initial fright, my sisters and I pulled off the pillow cases. We watched as Dennis captured the bat with one of the sheets from our bed. All this time, my mother was still screaming for us to cover our heads.

Dennis finally caught the bat in the sheets, carried it out the front door and released the poor thing. When he returned to our bedroom, there was blood on his hand. He had been bitten during the rescue. My mother cleaned the wound and wrapped the hand in bandages. She never bothered to take Dennis to the hospital, which I thought was strange.
Needless to say, my siblings and me believed that Dennis would turn into a vampire because he was bitten. That whole week he stayed with us, I would sneak up on him with a mirror to see if he had a reflection. Jane took to wearing a cross around her neck. Michael hung fresh garlic around his bed, and little Lucy poured holy water into Dennis's soup, waiting to see if he would burst into flames

In the end it all turned out well. Luckily for Cousin Dennis, the bat did not have rabies and Dennis never became a creature of the night, but... I'm not sure the Bat survived its encounter with the crazy humans living on Porter Street.