Sunday, June 05, 2011
Bat Boy Returns
My sister and I have been going on a weekly time traveling adventure as we continue to clean out our parents’ home.
We’ve been going through old photographs, letters, cards and other bits of family history. It’s been emotionally wrenching at times as we recall childhood memories and there’s still plenty more to discover before we finally put out the “For Sale” sign.
But there have been some fun finds as well. Last week we came across my old Cub Scout ID card, certifying that I was indeed a member in good standing with Pack 277. The card looks so official I wonder if I could use it in airports.
But today we came upon a true treasure. While cleaning out the living room bureau, we discovered—are you ready?—my fifth grade Science Award Certificate.
When I was growing up, children had to prove their scientific knowledge by assembling some kind of display that would illustrate a basic factoid of nature.
I recall kids making buzzers for the projects on electricity and there were others with lights and whirling propellers. I think my brother did the old baking soda-erupting volcano routine that was a grammar school classic for a generation of children.
I don’t recall enjoying this yearly ritual, as I was more of your sensitive literary type and had little use for molecules and gravity. I usually struggled to come up with something at the last minute.
But this one time I was able to create an awarding-winning project with the killer topic of all time--bats.
“Bats?” you say. Yes, damn it, bats, those freaky flying mammals that make Halloween and horror movies so special.
What made this project such a standout was that, in addition to researching the hell out of the topic—I went absolutely batty—(there, I said it!)--I also made a paper-mache model of a bat for my class presentation.
Oh, paper-mache, how I loved that stuff! I felt like Michelangelo as I dunked strips of old newspapers into the paste—all under my mother’s supervision, of course--and wrapped them around a long balloon to create the body and a smaller balloon for the head.
I don’t remember what I used for the wings, but whatever it was I slapped dripping newspaper clippings all over it. Once the glue hardened, I popped the balloons, got the brown spray paint, and made myself a bat.
A Special Study
The model was supposed to be a Big Brown Bat—eptesicus fuscus to those in the know—but it looked more like a giant mud butterfly or Mothra’s anemic cousin. Bear in mind I was 10 only years old.
The certificate is stained and a bit battered after all these years, but it bears the image of a Flash Gordon-type rocket ship on the surface of some distant planet with Mother Earth looming high in sky.
“To further an interest in science and related subjects,” the certificate said, “Robert Lenihan has pursued beyond class requirements, a personal program of study and achievement, which has resulted in a special study of the subject—Bats.”
The certificate is dated January 26, 1965 and signed by—oh, no!--Sister Frances, the original bat out of hell herself.
Long have I loathed this woman, a creature of the night who dressed in black and went forth from her convent-cave to strike terror into the hearts of hapless school children. Real bats may be scary, but they don’t know any better.
However, on the day I made my presentation, I was able to impress Sister Frances with my bats-pertise and stunning visual aid. I gave her and my classmates a rundown of the various types of bats, including one kind that sports a three-foot wingspan.
“Three feet,” Sister Frances exclaimed. “Ye gods!”
I fantasized about Sister Frances and the mega-bat actually running into each other on some moonless night where they could go at it fang and claw, but I have no doubt that the bat would get the worst of it.
God knows what kids are doing today for their science projects—probably splitting the atom and creating mutant life forms. I’m sure paper-mache and baking soda look laughable in contrast to what can be conjured up with a computer.
But it was nice coming across this little sheet of paper. It reminded me of a pleasant time I had with my mother without bringing me to tears like some of these other relics around here have.
This was a real personal program of study and achievement.